20 years under Putin: a timeline

The Institute of Modern Russia continues its series of publications on Russia’s political prisoners with a profile of Leonid Razvozzhayev, an activist in the Left Front movement and a defendant in the Bolotnaya Square case.

 

 

Name: Leonid Mikhailovich Razvozzhayev
Date of Birth: June 12, 1973
Razvozzhayev was kidnapped in Kiev on October 19, 2012 (allegedly by the Russian special services), and transferred to Russia, where he was arrested on the charge of organizing the mass riots that took place in Bolotnaya Square in Moscow on May 6, 2012. As a part of the big “Bolotnaya trial,” Razvozzhayev’s case was consolidated with that of Sergei Udaltsov, the leader of the Left Front opposition movement (whose case IMR will review in the next article of the series).

In October 2012, a scandalous documentary entitled Anatomy of a Protest—2 was aired on NTV. The documentary was presented as an “independent journalist investigation” of the protest movement in Russia. If the first part of Anatomy of a Protest, which had been aired six months earlier, suggested that the protest movement was easily bribed, the second part focused on discrediting individual members of the opposition. The viewers were shown low-resolution video footage recorded using a hidden camera in which Left Front activists Sergei Udaltsov, Leonid Razvozzhayev, and Konstantin Lebedev apparently discussed the opposition’s funding with Givi Targamadze, chairman of the Security Committee of the Georgian Parliament (described in the documentary as the “creator of color revolutions”), and Mikhail Iashvili, the Georgian consul in Moldova. Based on this footage, the documentary concludes that the Russian opposition is funded from abroad and therefore aims to undermine the very foundation of the Russian state.

Russia’s Investigative Committee reacted swiftly to Anatomy of a Protest—2: soon after the film was aired, criminal cases were opened against Udaltsov, the leader of the Left Front movement; Lebedev, the movement’s coordinator; and Razvozzhayev, a member of the Left Front’s council. All three cases were initially consolidated into a separate case within the big “Bolotnaya case,” which included almost 30 people. In October 2012, Lebedev, Udaltsov, and Razvozzhayev were arrested. Udaltsov was released after interrogation under a written pledge not to leave town. Lebedev quickly admitted guilt, and in return for his cooperation with the investigation and testimony against Udaltsov and Razvozzhayev, he was sentenced to only two and a half years in a penal colony, as opposed to the 15 years with which he had been initially threatened.

Razvozzhayev’s kidnapping and transfer to Moscow caused a stir, but it didn’t help his defense, nor did it impress the investigation. Thus, Razvozzhayev’s case reflected both the old and the new characteristics of the regime’s repressions.

Razvozzhayev’s arrest turned out to be more dramatic. He heard the news that his fellow members of the Left Front had been arrested when he was in Kiev and immediately asked for political asylum. However, shortly afterwards, right next to the building of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, he was kidnapped by unknown people (allegedly Russian special services) and transferred to Moscow. “He was captured by four people,” Anna Karetnikova, a coordinator at the Union for Solidarity with Political Prisoners, wrote in her LiveJournal. “They tied up his hands and legs with scotch tape. For every attempt to move, they kicked him in the back or in the shoulder. They put a hood on his head”.

On the night of Sunday, October 21, 2012, the Basmanny district court in Moscow held a closed hearing of Razvozzhayev’s case, without his lawyer present, and decided to keep him in the pretrial detention center as a measure of restraint. Razvozzhayev initially claimed that in the two days after his kidnapping, he was tortured and forced to sign a confession. Later, he denied this statement, saying that he had faced “psychological torture” and that he had never met Givi Targamadze in his life. Razvozzhayev’s request for a criminal investigation into his kidnapping and the torture was also denied.

According to investigators, Razvozzhayev was one of the organizers of the mass riots that took place in Moscow’s Bolotnaya Square on May 6, 2012. Together with his “accomplices,” he also planned to organize riots in other cities in Russia. It was assumed that the goal of the activists was to seize power. Soon after his arrest, he was also charged with a robbery that, according to investigators, occurred in 1997. Finally, he was charged with illegal trespass of Russia’s border with Ukraine. Ultimately, he faced up to 10 years of imprisonment.

Razvozzhayev’s kidnapping and transfer to Moscow caused a stir, but it didn’t help his defense, nor did it impress the investigation. As Sergei Davidis, a member of the board of the Russian human rights organization Memorial, wrote in his blog, Razvozzhayev’s case reflected both “the old and the new characteristics of repressions” in Russia. “Until now in the Bolotnaya case there were . . . wrong interpretations of the law, . . . traditional one-sidedness of the investigation and the court, presumption of guilt and ignoring of the defense’s argument, . . .  traditional falsifications,” Davidis wrote. “But there was at least a superficial attempt to build the accusations upon real events, keeping the illusion of abiding by the law. Now it’s all thrown away. Razvozzhayev was kidnapped in a different country, . . . tortured . . . ; tried at a closed session; [and] forced to admit the craziest full confession.”

 

 

As in a number of other politically motivated cases, Razvozzhayev faced a situation in which criminal persecution was used to achieve political aims. According to Dmitriy Agranovskiy, Razvozzhayev’s lawyer, “one may have different opinions about Udaltsov and Razvozzhayev; however, it is obvious that they had nothing to do with determining the location of the police forces or arranging for the cordon, which the group of protesters could not avoid.” This contention has been confirmed by a number of independent experts who have repeatedly said that it would be “inaccurate to qualify the Bolotnaya Square events as a mass riot.” Moreover, one of the conclusions of a report by the International Expert Committee on Assessing Moscow’s Bolotnaya Square Events of May 2012 states that those events were driven by the actions of the authorities.

According to Razvozzhayev’s defense team, there is no evidence to support the claim that he participated in the organization of mass riots. In an interview with IMR, Davidis said that the charges were “falsified, unsubstantiated, and clearly illegal.” He also added that “neither in the case of Razvozzhayev nor in that of Udaltsov, were any actions punishable under the criminal law.” Davidis called Razvozzhayev “the most tragic protagonist” in the Bolotnaya case, and the charges against him “absurd.” According to Davidis, Razvozzhayev became a victim of a showcase campaign launched by the authorities against the Bolotnaya protesters and was picked because of his close association with Udaltsov.

The Razvozzhayev and Udaltsov trials started on December 26, 2013. One highlight of the process that underlines its absurdity was the testimony of Alexei Malkov, an NTV journalist and one of the authors of Anatomy of a Protest—2. Malkov testified that the documentary was created using multiple hours of video footage and audio recordings given to him by “a certain individual,” whose name and other identifying details were not presented in court. Malkov also said that the film was developed by “layering the audio tracks onto the video footage.” It also turned out that the original recordings were delivered to the Investigative Committee, where, for some unexplained reason, they were destroyed. However, as the experience of other Bolotnaya prisoners has shown, there is no reason to expect an acquittal. The only question that remains is how grave the defendants’ punishment will be.

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