Trial of 12 Becomes Trial of 11 as Judge Scraps Case

Trial of 12 Becomes Trial of 11 as Judge Scraps Case

Published: September 12, 2012 (Issue # 1726)


Defendant Oleg Petrov had the charges against him dropped on Tuesday.

In an unpredictable turn of events, Judge Sergei Yakovlev threw out the case Tuesday against one of the 12 Other Russia activists on trial in St. Petersburg, several days after Maxim Reznik, the Yabloko Democratic Party’s local leader, dismissed the charges against the defendants as “balderdash.”

Defendant Oleg Petrov motioned Friday for the case against him to be closed on the grounds that two years (the expiration term for petty crimes) had passed since he took part in a Strategy 31 rally in August 2010, and to the surprise of those assembled in the courtroom, the judge accepted his motion.

Reznik, a Legislative Assembly deputy — where he chairs the education, culture and science commission — testified Friday as a defense witness at the trial, in which 12 (now 11) activists of The Other Russia opposition party are charged with acting as the banned National Bolshevik Party (NBP). Reznik denied the prosecution’s claims that the activists had used NBP flags or advertised the party or its program since the NBP was banned in August 2007.

The politician said that Strategy 31 rallies — claimed by the prosecution to be NBP party rallies where activists allegedly used the party’s banned flags and urged people to join the party — were in reality non-partisan, civic events in defense of the right to freedom of assembly, where any party paraphernalia was banned by the organizers.

He said the charges faced by the detained participants were falsified, because the detention reports had been written by officers stationed at the police precinct, rather than by the ones who actually made the arrests.

“They wrote that I was shouting ‘Russia for the Russians,’ which is utterly absurd, because Yabloko is an internationalist party,” said Reznik, who was arrested at the same Strategy 31 rally on Oct. 31, 2010, as the accused activists. “Of course, the charges didn’t stand up in court, and I was acquitted.”

He said that no party flags were used at the rallies, except one occasion when a woman turned up with a Yabloko flag. “I personally approached her and asked her to put it away,” he said.

No party slogans were used, according to Reznik.

‘The main slogan at Strategy 31 rallies is ‘Russia will be free,’ and wanting Russia to be free is not a crime,” he said.

Reznik — who combines his deputy duties with his job as a history teacher at a local high school — said he had witnessed the arrests of defendants Andrei Dmitriyev and Andrei Milyuk at the rallies.


Maxim Reznik of the Yabloko party dismissed the charges as ‘balderdash.’

“Milyuk was standing quietly near me when he was arrested,” he said. “I was holding a copy of the Russian constitution, and he did not even have one.”

Reznik also said that he witnessed Dmitriyev being detained for no apparent reason at another rally.

“Perhaps this word is not appropriate in a courtroom, but the charges are a load of balderdash,” he said.

According to Reznik, The Other Russia differs from the NBP in its political program. He said that while disagreeing with The Other Russia’s “nationalist rhetoric” and its “left-wing” approach to the economy, he shares its demands of free elections and civic freedoms.

Earlier, in Aug. 31 and Sept. 4 hearings, respectively, Strategy 31 co-organizers Andrei Pivovarov and Tamara Vedernikova also testified that no party flags or slogans were used during the events, which were organized on a non-partisan basis and featured hundreds of people, many of whom did not belong to any party.

Pivovarov was the local leader of the liberal Party of People’s Freedom (Parnas) and earlier of the Russian People’s Democratic Union (RNDS), when he organized the events, while Vedernikova belongs to the Russian Communist Workers’ Party (RKRP) — not to be confused with the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (KPRF) led by Gennady Zyuganov — and ROT Front (Russian United Labor Front) movement that unites several communist groups.

Both said they disagreed with the Other Russia ideologically, but they held Strategy 31 rallies together, because they were united in their demand for basic constitutional freedoms to be upheld by the authorities.

Pivovarov said that an attempt to deliver a petition to then-President Dmitry Medvedev, who was at a United Russia party congress held at LenExpo exhibition complex on Vasilyevsky Island on Nov. 21, 2009, was also a non-partisan initiative, and that he was one of the people who was detained as the group of a dozen activists plus a number of journalists walked along Bolshoi Prospekt, with no flags or any other paraphernalia.

“We were walking peacefully along the sidewalk without violating any laws when a police van pulled up alongside us and to our surprise, the officer offered to drive us to our destination,” Pivovarov said. “We declined — and that’s when we were arrested under threat of physical force and without any grounds given.”

The activists were taken to a police precinct and charged with jaywalking. The investigators later added to the indictment that the activists “had expressed the extremist views of the National Bolshevik Party by crossing the road on a red light, thus impeding traffic.”

Three of the activists on trial face up to three years in prison as organizers of the banned NBP’s “extremist activities,” while the remaining eight face up to two years as “participants.”

Leave a comment