Were last year’s excavations at Sandarmokh legal?

As the prosecution continues to present its evidence of “new offences” by Yury DMITRIEV at his second trial in the Petrozavodsk City Court in Karelia, a related dispute is being pursued at the national level over the identity of those executed and buried at Sandarmokh.

In early February, the Kommersant daily newspaper reported
on this “second front” in the Dmitriev Affair.

Sandarmokh, Solovki transport memorial (photo Kurilova)

Solovki transport memorial, Sandarmokh (photo, Anastasia Kurilova, August 2018)

In January 2019 there was an appeal for Yury Chaika, the Russian Federation’s Prosecutor General, to personally investigate the excavations at Sandarmokh last year by the Military History Society (MHS).

The request came from a deputy of the Karelian Legislative Assembly, Emilia Slabunova of the Yabloko Party. The authorities, she believes, had confused the status of memorial complex with “a site of interest” when granting permission for the MHS to carry out its exploratory excavations. She was referring to the archaeological investigation carried out by the Society at Sandarmokh between 25 August and 5 September 2018.

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A 63rd birthday in detention

The day before his 62nd birthday, last year, Yury DMITRIEV was released from detention and could spend the day with friends and family. This year, as his second trial continues, he is remanded in custody at Detention Centre No 1 in Petrozavodsk.

happy birthday.jpg

One-person picket outside Presidential Administration
in Moscow, 28 January 2019.

 

A verdict this spring?

YURY DMITRIEV’s first trial ended in April 2018 with his acquittal on the two most serious charges. The judge at the Petrozavodsk City Court concluded that the photographs Dmitriev had taken of his adopted daughter Natasha were not pornographic and that he had not committed indecent acts with her. However, the Karelian Supreme Court overruled the verdict and returned to the case for re-examination.

In summer 2018 further charges of forced sexual acts against his daughter Natasha were brought against Dmitriev. These accusations are based on new testimony by Natasha and her grandmother, neither of whom testified against Dmitriev during the first trial.

anufriev

Victor Anufriev

After the second trial began, Yury Dmitriev’s lawyer, Victor Anufriev, was interviewed by Alexander Valiyev of the Russian Service of Radio France Internationale.

During the first investigation and trial no evidence of the performance of indecent acts could be found. How could they suddenly bring charges of sexual violence at the second trial?

Yury Dmitriev’s acquittal was totally unexpected for the siloviki [high-ranking FSB and Ministry of Internal Affairs officers, etc]. Such a thing should not have happened, but it did. In Russia, such cases are judged in the courts and lead to a conviction without the slightest hitch. The city prosecutor supported the accusations and signed the charge sheet and that was already a signal to the judge that everything was in order and that the accused was “good to go”.

Unexpectedly, the judge ruled in accordance with the law and with justice. This was because during the course of the trial (which lasted a long while [from June 2017 to April 2018]), we, the defence, presented a great deal of evidence to wholly refute the evidence of the prosecution.

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The Ordeal resumes

On Friday, 19 October 2018, the first hearing in Yury DMITRIEV’s second trial takes place. He will be represented, once again, by Victor Anufriev. At his defence lawyer’s insistence, both the charges against Dmitriev, the old and the new, will be heard as part of the same proceedings.

Dmitriev rearrested

Yury Dmitriev is re-arrested in June 2018 (photo from Frankfurter Allgemeine)

Meanwhile, attempts to sway public opinion and prejudge the outcome of the trial are again being made by Kremlin-controlled media.

On Tuesday 16 October, Meduza [R] reported, a camera crew from REN TV came to the head office of Memorial in Moscow: “They were asking us why we were defending Yury Dmitriev and how such people as Sergei Koltyrin came to be involved with our organisation,” said Alexandra Polivanova; “they were also waving around photographs from the Dmitriev case files, which should not be in their possession.”

Memorial called the police.

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Second Time Round …

Yury DMITRIEV was first arrested on 13 December 2016, a date that marks the formal beginning of The Dmitriev Affair. Its roots go deeper and further back in time, naturally.

Over two years earlier, at the annual Day of Remembrance at Sandarmokh on 5 August, Dmitriev made critical comments about the annexation of Crimea and events in eastern Ukraine. In a long interview in 2015 Dmitriev alluded to official pressure and obstruction that was making him consider leaving the country (“If I stay here [in Russia] everything will be lost.”)

The “new hypothesis” that Soviet POWs were buried at Sandarmokh, so prominent today, made its first appearance in an article in Izvestiya in July 2016 [R], five months before Dmitriev was arrested.

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Much that is happening now, in other words, was prefigured by earlier events and the previous trial and acquittal.

Contributors to the Dmitriev Affair Facebook page have been looking back to the first arrest and investigation of Yury Dmitriev, between December 2016 and March 2017, and re-reading the articles and reports published then.

On this website, individual reports in English (and in Russian) can be found, month by month, on the Timeline of the first trial. Four key articles summarising the main stages of the first trial and acquittal have now been gathered together. They were written by Halya Coynash to whom we are all indebted for her regular reporting and grasp of the legal and judicial nuances of the proceedings in Petrozavodsk. (A contributor to the Human Rights in Ukraine website, based in Kharkiv, she covers events in Russia, Poland and elsewhere.)

John Crowfoot
4 October 2018