Leonid Nikitinsky: Who’s in Charge Here? This question has been answered in the Kagarlitsky case by a military appellate court in the closed settlement of Vlasikha.

13 February 2024

by Leonid Nikitinsky

Source: Novaya gazeta

Changing the punishment for political scientist Boris Kagarlitsky* from a fine of 609,000 rubles to five years’ incarceration does not formally contradict the Russian Criminal Procedure Code (UPK), which in late 2010 was supplemented by a chapter on procedure at the appellate level. UPK Article 389.15 lists “unjust verdict” among its reasons for rescinding or changing a judicial decision, and Art. 389.24 specifies that it can be changed to make the convicted person’s situation worse in response to the victim’s complaint (there was no victim in this case) or on the prosecutor’s recommendation.

According to Kagarlitsky, who spoke to supporters and journalists outside the gates of the closed settlement before court proceedings began, the Prosecutor’s Office based its complaint on the fact that he, who since July of last year had been in custody at the Syktyvkar remand centre, in August, that is, four months before the sentence was issued in Komi, was added by Rosfinmonitoring [Federal Financial Monitoring Service of the Russian Federation] to its list of terrorists and extremists: all his accounts were blocked and he supposedly could not pay his fine. Meanwhile the fine was paid in January 2024 out of funds collected by his fellow socialists.

All this is only tangential to the law, as was sending the case of a Moscow resident for investigation and trial in Syktyvkar solely on the grounds that it was opened in response to a complaint by some deputy in the Ukhta municipal council. That deputy had seen signs of justification of terrorism in a video by Kagarlitsky that, according to a report in Kommersant (it was a closed case, so we can only cite this source), was published on his Telegram channel in October 2022 as a reaction to the explosion on the Kerch Strait bridge. The explanation given by the author that by the title of the video, which outraged the Prosecutor’s Office, was that he meant an actual cat, Mostik [the Russian word for “bridge” is most – Tr.], a favorite of bridge builders. The Komi judges did not consider this sufficient grounds for closing the prosecution.

Meanwhile yet again the judges in military courts are showing more common sense and independence than are their colleagues in general jurisdiction courts, which in recent years have rarely been willing to get into disputes with the organs. The Komi judges probably considered if not the cat then at least the political scientist’s academic degree and his previous achievements—in particular, his Lefortovo sentence for criticizing the Soviet regime in 1982-1983.

In October 2023, at a meeting of the Valdai Discussion Club, a question about the fate of Kagarlitsky, who is well known in scholarly circles as a teacher at the “Shaninka” (Moscow School of Social and Economic Sciences), with the clarification that “he had never been against Russia,” was posed to President Putin, who promised to “sort this out.”

Which means, it was sorted out, by who was supposed to. Once again: today’s change in Kagarlitsky’s punishment is a purely political and in no way legal decision.

Apart from the general message that no one should expect any mercy in political cases, it makes it clear who is in fact in charge, which in the Soviet Union used to be run together as the “courts-and-law-enforcement-organs.”

The Prosecutor’s Office had asked for 5.5 years back in Komi, but the court showed a certain “left-wing” humanism and good sense. It should not be this way—now the “dictatorship of the law” is complete.

* Added by the Russian authorities to the register of “foreign agents.”

Translated by Marian Schwartz

Leave a Reply