New experts

The new experts in the Dmitriev case come from a private firm without office or staff. On 15 September the Petrozavodsk City Court scheduled a new examination of the photographs in the Dmitriev case. The Karelian historian is accused of making pornography and sexually abusing his adopted daughter Natasha.


The evidence is nine photographs on which the genitals of the girl are visible.

Dmitriev has explained that these photographs are part of a “health diary”. The meticulous historian photographed the sickly child to prevent any fault-finding by the adoption agency. He already had experienced such problems. Once his wife applied a mustard plaster to Natasha through a newspaper and traces of printers’ ink were left on her skin. At the kindergarten the ink was thought to be bruising. After that Dmitriev periodically took formal photographs of the girl – from the front, the back and the sides. The historian kept the photos in directories on his computer entitled “Natasha”, “Monitoring” and “Health”: he showed them to no one and never sent them anywhere.

There are more than one hundred photos in the archive. Two years ago, when Natasha had become strong and healthy, Dmitriev ceased to keep this photographic diary. Today the girl is 12 and after Dmitriev’s arrest she was sent to her grandmother. She misses her adoptive father and she and her step-sister Katya keep up a correspondence.

The nine photographs with which the investigation has incriminated Dmitriev were made a year to 18-months apart. Four (copies of the same photo) were made in early 2009; another four (also copies of a single photo) were made in summer 2010; and the last was taken at the beginning of 2012.


They were termed pornographic in the first expert examination prepared by the Centre for Socio-Cultural Examination. (In violation of the Criminal-Procedural Code, Dmitriev and his defence attorney were only shown the decree appointing this examination after the Centre had already begun work.) This is the same organisation that has issued expert conclusions in different years concerning political activists, the Pussy Riot protest, and the Jehovah’s Witnesses. The political activists and members of Pussy Riot were imprisoned; the Jehovah’s Witnesses were banned.

Eleven specialists from Moscow and St Petersburg, invited by Dmitriev lawyer Victor Anufruiev, refuted the conclusions of the Centre for Socio-Cultural Examination.

They replied to all the issues under discussion.

Surely the photographs of a naked girl were pornography? No, said sexologist professor Lev Shcheglov: pornography is the cynical depiction of the sexual act or of manipulations of the genitals. On all the photographs, however, the girl was alone. In the words of defence attorney Anufriev they contained not a hint of sexual activities.

Why did Dmitriev regularly photograph his daughter without clothes over a period of several years? It was to monitor the growth of a child with stunted development, explained Moscow doctors Fyodor Katasonov and Grigory Sheyanov.

Perhaps, Dmitriev was a paedophile? No, the specialists asserted, it would be impossible to hide such a deviation by the age of 60: a psychiatric assessment of Dmitriev gave the same categorical reply.

Meanwhile, the investigation had a great many questions to answer. Who wrote the anonymous letter, after which a criminal investigation was opened? How did that anonymous individual get hold of the photographs and why did that person go to the law-enforcement agencies a few days after Dmitriev was called, on a false pretext, to the police station and kept there for several hours, after his passport and mobile phone were confiscated? How could Dmitriev be arrested without being charged? There are no answers to these and to other questions. Dmitriev’s friends and relatives can guess why. They link the prosecution of the historian with his work.


For the last 30 years Dmitriev has been tracking down the burial grounds of the Great Terror. He has found and restored the names of thousands of those who were shot. Consuls and delegations from various countries, including Poland and Ukraine, came to the annual Day of Commemoration at Sandarmokh, a site Dmitriev discovered in 1997 (more than 9,000 were murdered there). In recent years those heading the FSB and other power agencies in Karelia were unhappy about this, and the local administration stopped taking part in these commemorative events.

These circumstances convinced the defence that the first examination of the photographs had not been objective. At the fourth attempt Victor Anufriev succeeded in having a new examination. He himself suggested that two State expert institutions should take on the work: either the Serbsky Centre or the Russian Health Ministry’s centre for forensic examination. The prosecutor insisted that a certain Agency for Intellectual Property in Moscow do the work.

Anufriev established that this was a private firm run by one individual and requested that it be taken off the list. Then the judge entrusted the new examination to the Federal Department for Independent Forensic Examination.

“Hearing the term federal department, I believed that it was a State-licensed institution and could be entrusted with conducting an expert examination in such a complicated and widely discussed case,” said Anufriev, “although a shadow of doubt remained. When I checked, the organisation proved to be yet another commercial company, with a statutory capital of 10,000 roubles but based in St Petersburg! I had not expected such a ruse from the judge.”

Several doubtful aspects immediately spring to the eye.

One, the court cannot entrust a commercial firm with an expert examination. Article 195 of the Criminal-Procedural Code states that “A forensic examination may be carried out by State forensic experts or other persons among those who possess specialised knowledge”. According to a decree of the Supreme Court (21 December 2010) such “other persons” are experts from strictly non-commercial organisations. […]

Two, Government decree No 1463 forbids the use of the term “federal” unless the organisation is a political party, a trade union or a religious association.

Next, the information about the activities of the “Federal Department for Independent Forensic Examination” is very limited. It does not provide a list of its experts: presumably, they are invited on a one-off basis. Information from open sources indicates that the “Department” is registered in an ordinary apartment on Srednyaya Podyacheskaya Street in Petersburg, next door to the directorate for the Russian Guard in Petersburg. There is no information about this expert organisation on the doors, the front wall, the stairwell or apartment entrance. Neighbours told a correspondent from the website that the inhabitants of the apartment are “ordinary people who work at the Apraksin Market”.

The general director of the firm is Julia Goncharova, who has a doctorate in sociology and formerly taught at the university of service industry and the economy. In a telephone conversation with Novaya gazeta Goncharova refused to name the specialists whom the organisation employed or to comment on the organisation’s involvement in the Dmitriev case.

“Where did you get such information?” Goncharova asked in an irritated tone.

“From the court proceedings.”

“Тhen go and ask the court!”

Worst of all, at the prosecutor’s request only nine of the 114 photographs are being submitted for assessment. This means that the new specialists, no matter how conscientious they might be, will not be able to assess the disputed photos within the context of a diary of health.

Defence attorney Anufriev has submitted a petition to court for the Federal Department for Independent Forensic Examination to stand down. There does not remain much time for consideration of this petition. The hearing of the results of the new examination has been scheduled for 11 October.

Nikita Girin
(with Serafima Romanova)
Novaya gazeta, 2 October 2017

Rights in Russia
No. 29 (262) 9 October 2017