Valery Brinikh: The News from Adygea

 

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Valery Brinikh

Valery Brinikh
Facebook
September 9, 2017

Hello!

I wrote a report on this Sunday’s elections. Don’t be lazy and read it to the end. You’ll learn a lot of new things.

Who Elects the Head of Adygea: A Political Portrait of the Republic’s Parliament

As you know, on Sunday, September 10, the State Council of the Republic of Adygea (in Adyghe, the Khase) will elect a new head for the republic. There are three candidates, but the outcome is predetermined. Who would doubt it? Correct me if I’m mistaken, but in the history of modern Russia this was probably the first instance when the outgoing head of a Russian region brought his own kinsman to Moscow so that Putin could view the bride, i.e. his chosen successor. Nor, we must note, were he and his kinsman immediately shown the door. This was probably taken by the petitioners from Adygea as a favorable sign.

Everything kicked off when, in March of last year, as it was about to give up the ghost, the members of the Adgyean parliament’s fifth convocation nearly unanimously voted (fifty yeas, four nays) to abolish direct, popular elections of the republic’s head, adopting a special law and making the relevant amendments to the Adygean Constitution. Having denied Adygeans the right to vote directly for head of the region, the “people’s” elected representatives formally explained their decision as a means of making the electoral process less expensive. However, no one abolished another law, a law of everyday life: cheaper doesn’t mean better.

So elections to the sixth convocation of the Adygean Khase, in 2016, took place with the understanding that it would be the new parliament, not the people, that would be picking the republic’s new head. So, the requirements for sifting out the winners were tougher than usuaul. It was boom or bust, literally, all or nothing. The powers that be backstopped its chosen candidates to the hilt, and the elections took place in a stifling climate of lawlessness, generated by the acting executive branch and the local office of the United Russia party. Functionaries of the Rodina (Motherland) party did everything they could to force the Adygean Central Elections Commission to remove the opposition party’s entire regional list of candidates from the ballot, although the party had a good chance of taking several seats in parliament. The billboards, posters, and flyers of all candidates and parties except United Russia and LDPR were destroyed hours, if not minutes, after they were posted. The vote tallies at the polling stations were skewed, and the votes received by candidates and parties that are not part of the so-called parliamentary grouping (United Russia, CPRF, A Just Russia, and LDPR) were totally nullified. The latter parties divvied up their shares of the vote totals in keeping with quotas that had been agreed in advance in Moscow. So, the current Adygean Khase consists of 38 MPs from United Russia, four MPS each from the CPRF and LDPR, and two MPs from A Just Russia. Two more MPs have to be elected in by-elections on September 10. There is no doubt that one of the two will be a United Russia member. Thus, MPs from United Russia make up 80% of the republic’s parliament, while the CPRF and LDPR have 8% of MPs each, and A Just Russia has 4% of MPs. Now let’s compare these proportion with the spread of MP mandates in the Russian State Duma. United Russia’s MPs occupy 76% of the seats; the CPRF, 9.5%; the LDPR, 8.7%; and A Just Russia, 5.8%. The Duma also has two MPs who are not members of these parties. One of them is a member of the Rodina party, the party that was successfully sent packing in Adygea. The outcomes are quite similiar, don’t you think? It’s as if the same templates had been used.

The lineup of MPs running in the 2017 elections has been thoroughly purged. Anyone who provoked the slightest doubts has been removed from the lists. Only five people who have been MPs for more than three convocations are left, and only nine MPS from the last three convocations are still in the running. Two of them are from the CPRF’s faction (Adam Bogus and Yevgeny Salov), while the rest are from United Russia. The other thirty-four MPs (out of a total of forty-eight) were elected during Aslan Tkhakushinov’s last two terms as head of the republic [he resigned in January 2017, after ten years in office], under the watchful eye of his team. In fact, they are part of his team.

Clearly, they express not the will of the people, but the will of their true masters, the men who got them elected. Thus, the clearly unelectable United Russian candidates Sergei Belokrys (District No. 16) and Rustam Kalashov (District No. 21) got the cherished mandates. During their party’s so-called primaries [the English word is used in Russian], they both took an honorable third place in their districts with 7% and 27% of the vote, respectively. Even more unelectable pawns were kinged after winning spots on United Russia’s party list.

They hardly all have the right to be called people’s representatives, if only because not all the MPs in the Khase’s sixth convocation were elected by the people on the new single voting day. Thus, seven of the winning candidates from United Russia list soon resigned for different reasons, and their mandates were automatically handed over to five new MPs from the party list (Yuri Gorokhov, Yevgenia Dyachkova, Zurab Zekhov, Azamat Mamkhegov, and Murat Shkhalakov). Two more MPs will be selected on September in single-mandate constituencies. LDPR’s list of of winners included party leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky and the party’s regional leader Denis Ogiyenko, neither of whom took their seats in the Adygean parliament. Why Zhirinovsky did this is clear enough, but Ogiyenko works as an aide to an MP in the State Duma, where everything is grown-up and they feed you caviar sandwiches. The two LDPR leaders were replaced as Khase MPs by Valentina Chugunova and Tembot Shovgenov, thus technically bypassing the will of voters.

It is interesting to compare how much the majoritarian MP mandates in the republic’s urban districts and rural districts are worth in terms of votes cast by voters. Thus, Maykop, the capital city, is divided into nine electoral districts, inhabited by a total of 132,890 voters. One majoritarian mandate is thus worth, on average, 14,776 potential votes.  The Maykop Municipal District [not to be confused with Maykop per se] has three electoral districts and 46,111 voters, so an MP’s mandate is worth slightly more there: 15,370 votes. The Teuchezh District has only one majoritarian mandate, worth 13,549 votes. The Takhtamukay District is home to 51,840 votes, and so its four majoritarian mandates are worth an average of 12,960 votes. In the Giaginskaya District, the mandates are worth a bit less (12,563 votes on average), while in the neighboring Shovgenovsky District, it is worth 12,482 votes. Adygeysk’s single majoritarian mandate is worth 12,029 votes, while the Koshekhabl District’s two mandates are worth 11,407 votes apiece. The Krasnogvardeyskoye District has the “cheapest” mandates: two at 11,013 votes apiece. But strangers do not roam the homeland of the sweet couple of Aslan Tkhakushinov and Murat Kumpilov [Adygea’s acting head and Tkhakushinov’s chosen successor]. They elect only their own people and only on the advice of their superiors.

It was not entirely accurate to distribute MP mandates generally (whether from majoritarian single-mandate constituencies or party lists) in terms of the number of voters in the districts. The largest number of voters lives in Maykop (39% of all voters in Adygea), and its goes down from there. The Takhtamukay District has 15% of voters; the Maykop District, 13.6%; the Giaginskaya District, 7.4%; the Koshekhabl District, 7%; the Krasnogvardeyskoye District, 6.5%; the Teuchezh District, 4%; the Shovgenovsky District, 3.7%, and the town of Adygeysk, 3.5%. Meanwhile, the MPs from Maykop have only 30% of the mandates in the Khase; Takhtamukay District, 20%; Maykop District, 14%; Giaginskaya District, 6%; Koshekhabl District, 10%; Krasnogvardeyskoye District, 8%; Teuchezh District, 6%; Shovgenovsky District, 4%; and the town of Adygeysk, 2%.  The imbalance is obvious.

The sixth convocation of the Adygean Khase has only eight MPs (16.7% of the total number) employed in the state sector. Six MPs (12.5%) are party officials. The remaining MPs (over 70%) run businesses in different sectors of the economy. The largest number of them (21 MPs out of a total of 48) earn their money in construction, commerce (including wholesale commerce), and services. Four MPs (8.3%) get their income from agriculture. Three MPs (6.3%) work in banking and investing, while two MPs each (4.2% each) are involved, respectively, in the hotel and tourism business, logging and extractive industries, and industrial manufacturing. Yet the CRPF and A Just Russia factions are dominated by party officials (four out of six), while members of United Russia have a clear advantage in all other lines of work.

The sixth convocation of the Khase includes two high-profile businessmen with criminal pasts (according to the media): United Russia member Gissa Baste (aka Voloskevich) and non-partisan MP Adam Bogus (aka Mazai), who blocks with the CRPF faction. Several well-known businessmen from United Russia have close ties with different dubious firms and people with criminal pasts. In particular, nine deputies (six from United Russia, two from the LDPR, and one from the CPRF) are involved in the construction business in the Takhtamukay District, run by Azmet Skhalyakho aka the Foreman. According to the media, he earned the nickname not on the fields of his native Takhtumukay District, but by shaking down market traders in Krasnodar during the “wild” 1990s. The notorious prosecutor Murat Tkhakushinov, son of ex-republic head Aslan Tkhakushinov, worked in the same district until recently. The Takhtamukay District’s proximity to Krasnodar, the much lower prices for land in the district than in Krasnodar, and the total control over the black market for land plots by criminal gangs, who have fused with Adygea’s government agencies, have made the construction business in the district quite profitable. Especially if you are not bothered by the legality of particular transactions, do not waste money on pollution treatment facilities, and pay no mind to the quite costly environnmental requirements.

Questions also arise when you take a closer look at the life and times of Vladimir Narozhny, head of the United Russia faction and chair of the republic’s parliament. There are strange blanks in his CV from 1981 to 1991, which for some reason he does not particularly advertise. Judging by occasional references, he ran various agricultural businesses during this period. Currently, he is associated with a number of firms, also involved in agrobusiness, in Adygea and Krasnodar Territory. They have different names and legal addresses, and yet they have the very same Primary State Registration Number and Taxpayer Identification Number. Obsessive thoughts of criminal money laundering schemes come to mind, but I have probably read too many detective novels.

As a final touch to my sketch of the current Adygean Khase, I want to focus on yet another imbalance, which testifies to a deeply embedded problem, if not a chronic disease, that affects the regional authorities in Adygea. I have in mind the distortions in personnel policy that favor the so-called titular ethnic group, the Adyghe. This phenomenon, which I would dub the Adyghization of power in the republic, was especially rampant during Aslan Tkhakushinov’s second term and has kept evolving in the present. I would not argue it has anything to do with ethnic conflicts between two great peoples, the Russians and the Adyghe, but has been caused only by attempts by specific members of the so-called Ulyap clan, who have ruled the republic for the last ten years, to ensure they will stay in power for the indefinite future. This is done both by depriving the Adygean populace of the right to elect the republic’s leaders and local government officials in direct elections, and through a deliberate personnel policy of giving preference to members of the titular ethnic group when filling vacancies in state and municipal agencies—if possible, to members of one’s own clan and numerous kinsmen. This cup has also touched the republic’s legislative branch. Whereas the republic’s population consists of approximately 63% Slavs, 25% Adyghe, 3.5% Armenians, and 8.5% other ethnic groups, the Khase is dominated by members of the titular ethnic group, who hold 28 seats (or 58.33%), while the Slavs are represented by 19 MPs (or 39.58% of seats). There is also one Armenian MP in the parliament, and no one else. I do not insist on introducing ethnic quotas. (God forbid, we have already been through such attempts at achieving parity.) I merely want to draw attention to this obviously non-random outcome as the inevitable side effect of dishonest elections.

Valery Brinikh, Chair of the Adygean Regional Branch of the Greens Russian Ecological Party, September 8, 2017

Translated by the Russian Reader. Photo courtesy of Bellona

Valery Brinikh: A Surprise Witness

George Orwell, writer: "The further a society drifts from the truth the more it will hate those who speak it."
“George Orwell, writer: ‘The further a society drifts from the truth the more it will hate those who speak it.'” Image from Valery Brinikh’s Facebook page

Valery Brinikh
Facebook
June 25, 2016

Hello!

The latest hearing in my criminal trial took place on June 24, but it was no run-of-the-mill hearing. When, last week, the court turned down defense attorney Andrei Sabinin’s motion to examine a linguistics expert from the beautiful beyond via videoconferencing (although, literally right before this, two prosecution witnesses from Krasnodar had been examined in this manner), neither the prosecutors nor the judge suspected that soon they would have the honor of gazing at this linguistics expert in person. We provided them with this pleasure.

The linguistics expert smashed the so-called findings of official state expert Sergei Fedyayev to smithereens. She immediately pointed out that Fedyayev had violated the fundamental methodological principles of forensic examinations for identifying signs of extremism. First, such forensic examinations should be comprehensive, involving not only a linguist but also a psychologist and, better yet, a sociologist or political scientist (if social groups are at issue). By definition, a linguist cannot cope with all these tasks alone. Nor did linguistic expert Fedyayev cope with his task. His analysis of the article “The Silence of the Lambs” skids on the sharp turns like a Volga car. Hence the large number of mistakes and simple linguistic blunders he made, producing findings that were not only at odds with the principles of linguistics but also with common sense.

During her testimony, our expert pointed to a number of instances where Fedyayev clearly went beyond his competence as a linguist by giving legal evaluations of individual passages in “The Silence of the Lambs” and thus infringing on the court’s realm of responsibility. In addition, his findings contain a definition of the concept of a “group,” something only a sociologist or political scientist is competent to define. The Russian Supreme Court has directly ruled it is inadmissible to define the authorities (state officials) as a “social group.” But what does the Russian Supreme Court mean to Fedyayev when the Adygea Supreme Court is dealing the cards? Fedyayev’s analysis also contains probabilistic conclusions (i.e., dealing with the realm of possibility), which are inadmissible in a linguistic forensic examination.

Apologizing to the judge for infringing on legal issues, our expert noted that the article does not oppose one group to another, one nation to another, and that there is no evidence of incitement to enmity and hatred on ethnic and other grounds in the text.

Our expert also testified that lexical-semantic and lexical-stylistic methods should be used in analyzing the text, while the huge number of other methods listed by Fedyayev either were not employed or were superfluous. In particular, by not using conceptual analysis, Fedyayev was led to erroneous conclusions.

The overall conclusion of the linguistics expert we called to the stand in Maykop City Court yesterday was that the article “The Silence of the Lambs” was highly critical and chockablock with negative assessments of the authorities and the hog breeding business, but there was nothing in the article that could interpreted as inciting enmity and hatred. In particular, she pointed out to the court that the words “Adyghe” and “Adygean” are encountered in different contexts in the article, testifying to the fact that the author distinguishes between the notions, using them in the article to denote different things. While the word “Adyghe” clearly refers to an ethnicity, “Adygean” has several meanings, one of them being a resident of Adygea, without reference to his or her ethnicity, as in krasnodarets, sochinets, stavropolets, and so on. [That is, the Russian terms for residents of Krasnodar, Sochi, and Stavropol, respectively.—TRR.]

What mattered to me was our expert’s answer to the question of whether it was possible, having received an unfamiliar text in the morning, to carry out a forensic examination of it by the evening of the same day and discover grounds for suspecting the text of extremism by using linguistic methods. My question was prompted by the fact that on September 15, 2014, Fedyayev, at the request of the FSB’s regional office in the Republic of Adygea, conducted a linguistic examination of the article “The Silence of the Lambs” in ten hours, and his memorandum to this effect (not even an expert opinion) was the grounds for the Maykop City Court (Judge Irina Ramazanova, presiding) ruling that the article was extremist. Later, on the basis of the very same memorandum, whipped up in a single workday, the very same Fedyayev wrote up the expert findings that served as the basis for my indictment on criminal charges.

The conclusion of the expert we called to the stand was unequivocal: it would be impossible. Sometimes, explained the expert, who is a past master at linguistic and comprehensive forensic examinations, analysis of a single sentence might take three hours. So, personally, she takes two weeks to perform such examinations.

In general, the testimony or, rather, the lecture by the linguistics expert we called to the stand was so thorough that neither the judge nor the prosecutors could think of anything substantive to ask her. Thus, by presenting critical reviews of Fedyayev’s forensic examination, we have drawn a thick line under it, making it completely impossible for it to be used as evidence for the prosecution in the criminal case against me.

The next hearing has been scheduled for 2:15 p.m. on July 4. Most likely, we will file a motion to have the forensic examination redone, asking this time for a comprehensive, rather than linguistic, examination.

Translated by the Russian Reader. Please read my previous posts on the extremism case against Adygean environmentalist Valery Brinikh.

Image courtesy of Twitter
Image courtesy of Twitter

Valery Brinikh: Report from His Extremism Trial

The extremism trial against environmentalist Valery Brinikh in session. Maykop City Court, June 17, 2016
The extremism trial against environmentalist Valery Brinikh in session. Maykop City Court, June 17, 2016

Valery Brinikh
Facebook
June 18, 2016

Hello!

The latest hearing in my criminal case took place in Maykop from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on June 17 of this year. This time, the prosecution’s last two witnesses were finally questioned, albeit by a videoconference link with the Soviet District Court in Krasnodar. Vyacheslav Potapov and Vitaly Isayenko were supposed to answer questions about the operations of the website For Krasnodar, on which the article “The Silence of the Lambs” was posted.

It seemed to me that Sergei Shvetsov, senior deputy prosecutor of the Republic of Adygea, was not prepared to examine the witnesses today and the questions he asked them sounded like childish prattle. Even the judge noted this and advised the public prosecutor to concentrate. Ultimately, however, the second public prosecutor, Inessa Orlova from the Maykop City Prosecutor’s Office, took the microphone from Shvetsov and asked the witnesses specific questions.

I was personally interested in Isayenko’s responses to two sets of questions, first, about the circumstances of his interrogation on December 12, 2014. On that day, after the search [at his house], he was brought from Krasnodar to Maykop and interrogated until evening. It was night when they sent him back home to Krasnodar. As Isayenko, who suffers from Type 1 Diabetes, explained, he spent almost half a day at the Republic of Adygea Investigation Department with no food and, much more dangerously, with no insulin. They gave him only water. And yet they interrogated him intensively, trying to squeeze testimony against me and Vyacheslav Potapov, editor of the website For Krasnodar, from him. I was being interrogated in the next room, and I could hear Senior Investigator Kirill Kustov screaming at him. The stress he underwent and the long period he endured without food and insulin landed Vitaly Isayenko in the hospital the day after his return from Maykop. His diabetes flared up and he suffered from other ailments.

I was also interested in Isayenko’s comments, as a computer specialist, on certain statements in the inspection report on the computers seized at Isayenko’s house, an inspection carried out by Senior Investigator Kustov on the night of December 12, 2014. In particular, the report states that three processors were discovered in one of the computers. Isayenko explained there had been only one processor in the computer. He did not know nothing about any other processors.

In general, the witnesses said nothing new. They only confirmed what was already contained in the minutes of their interrogations.

Valery Brinink (left) and his attorney,
Valery Brinink (left) and his attorney, Andrei Sabinin. Maykop City Court, June 17, 2016

After the witnesses were examined, my attorney, Andrei Sabinin, attempted to request that Elizaveta Koltunova, a linguist from Nizhny Novgorod, be examined via videoconference, but the prosecutors objected, and Judge Vitaly Galagan did their bidding. Our request to examine the linguist by videoconferencing was rejected. According to the defense, this stance on the part of the prosecution and the court contradicts the adversarial nature of judicial proceedings and the principle of the equality of arms.

Much more unexpected and even amusing was the procedural action, which took place after lunch, of obtaining handwriting samples and a signature from prosecution witness Mugdin Mossovich Guchetl, a resident of the village of Gabukay. Everything would have been alright if the witness had simply produced his signature in silence, but instead he recalled another circumstance that I think gave the prosecutors a slight shock. Guchetl recalled that in February of last year, when Investigator A.S. Rudenko of the Investigative Department of the Republican Investigative Committee’s Teuchezsky District office took Guchetl’s written testimony, he asked him to sign blank sheets of paper, because, as Rudenko explained, allegedly, he would later type out Guchetl’s handwritten testimony on the computer, but he needed the signatures right away so he would not have to make a return trip to Adygeisk.

The investigator thus clearly violated the procedure for processing interrogation reports, a procedure strictly regulated by criminal procedural laws. At the same time, the investigator committed forgery by inserting things Guchetl did not say into the report. Today, after reading the interrogation report, which is part of the criminal case file, Guchetl categorically stated he did not say to the investigator what was written in the penultimate paragraph of his printed testimony, which reads as follows: “I want to clarify that I strongly disagree with the contents of the article entitled ‘The Silence of the Lambs,’ because I think the article has defamed my honor and dignity as an Adyghe, as well as insulting all Muslims. The article compares us to pigs and cowards, and claims we have no sense of self-esteem.”

Basically, it was for the sake of this passage that the investigator obtained Guchetl’s testimony. In fact, the investigator could have written something even rougher on Guchetl’s behalf, because he already his signatures on blank interrogation report forms.

Finally, I made a motion to rule the Teuchezhsky District Council an illegitimate injured party in my case, since it did not satisfy the grounds set out in Article 42 of the Russian Federal Criminal Procedure Code. When the prosecutors objected as usual, spouting platitudes about the proper recognition of the local authorities as an injured party, we demanded the prosecution present legal grounds for its stance. We were quite curious to find out how exactly the district council had been injured, if, as they themselves have said, the article had caused moral injury to the residents of the Teuchezhsky District.

The prosecutors drew a blank and requested a time-out until the next hearing, at which they promised to provide a written justification for their objection. That suited us just fine, as it did the judge, who postponed consideration of our motion until next time.

The next court hearing is scheduled for June 24.

Translated by the Russian Reader. Photos courtesy of Valery Brinikh. Please read my previous posts on his case.

Prosecution Witness in Brinikh Case Recants

Valery Brinikh

Prosecution Witness in Brinikh Case Recants
Grani.ru
March 24, 2016

77-year-old Mugdin Guchetl, a witness for the prosecution in the extremist case against environmentalist Valery Brinikh, recanted from the testimony identified as his in the case file during a court hearing in Maykop City Court in Adygea, as reported by the international human rights group Agora, who cited Brinikh’s defense attorney Alexander Popkov.

In testimony signed “Guchetl,” given during the investigation, it states that Brinikh has insulted not only the witness but the entire Adyghe people with his article “The Silence of the Lambs.” During the trial, however, the witness said he had not read the article, that he had not been in Adygeisk for around five years (although according to the interrogation report he was questioned in Adygeisk), that he had not given testimony to a police investigator, and that he had not signed the interrogation report.

Presiding Judge Vitaly Galagan pressed Guchetl, telling him that if he did not acknowledge his own signature, he would be summoned to court again. The defense protested the judge’s actions and filed a motion for a handwriting analysis to be performed.

The article “The Silence of the Lambs” was published on the website For Krasnodar! in September 2014. It recounts the environmental problems caused by Kievo-Zhuraki Agribusiness JSC, a large pig-breeding facility in Adygea’s Teuchezhsk District. The company was founded by Vyacheslav Derev, Karachay-Cherkessia’s representative in the Federation Council.

The article contains the following passage: “But who or what has forced the Adyghe to breathe manure-polluted air and swim in ponds poisoned by sewage? Nothing but cowardice and a lack of self-esteem.”

On December 17, 2014, Maykop City Court ruled that “The Silence of the Lambs” was extremist. On March 20, 2015, the Adygea Supreme Court reaffirmed the lower court’s decision. In their rulings, the courts claimed the author of the article had insulted ethnic Adyghe, accusing them of cowardice. On January 12, 2016, Brinikh submitted a written petition to Maykop City Court asking it to reexamine its ruling in the light of new circumstances, but on January 21, Judge Irina Ramazanov refused to consider the petition.

The environmentalist had been charged under Articles 33.5 and 282.1 of the Criminal Code (complicity in inciting hatred and enmity) as he was accused of having help to disseminate the article. Subsequently, Major Konstantin Kustov, senior major case investigator at the regional headquarters of the Russian Federal Investigative Committee, recharged the environmentalist, removing Article 33.5 from the charges and accusing the biologist of having authored “The Silence of the Lambs.”

Defense attorney Popkov has noted that over the past year the Investigative Committee has ordered five forensic examinations in the case. However, the lawyer stressed that data from a wiretap of Brinikh’s telephone, conducted by the Federal Security Service (FSB) a few months before “The Silence of the Lambs” was published, has been subjected to a phonological forensic analysis.

Hearing of the case on the merits began on January 26, 2016. Popkov had insisted on sending the case back to the prosecutor’s office, pointing out that a number of pieces of evidence had been falsified, but Judge Galagan rejected his appeal.

During the February 9 hearing of the case, one of the ethnic Adyghes who was questioned refuted the charges against the defendant.

“The environmentalist’s article caused no enmity,” he said. “On the contrary, Brinikh has help the Adyghes fight for the environment.”

Translated by the Russian Reader. Photo courtesy of 8772.ru. See my previous posts on Valery Brinikh and the case against him.

The Strange Trial of Valery Brinikh

Judge Refuses to Return Case of Environmentalist Accused of Extremism to Prosecutor
OVDInfo.org
January 26, 2016

Maykop City Court has refused to return the case of environmentalist Valery Brinikh, accused of inciting hatred against the Adyghe people, to the prosecutor’s office for further investigation. This happened on January 26 at the first hearing in Brinikh’s trial. Lawyer Alexander Popkov, Brinikh’s defense attorney, told OVD Info that the reason for the motion to return the case to the prosecutor were the violations of criminal procedural law that have surfaced during the case. According to Popkov, the case files which the police investigator allowed them to examine did not match the case files submitted to the court.

Valery Brinikh
Valery Brinikh

“The dates of the inspection protocols of the items seized during the search [of Brinikh’s home] have been changed,” Popkov explained.

According to him, during the investigation, he and his client discovered that the inspection protocols  had been drawn up before the items were confiscated. After they pointed this out, protocols that were formally drawn up later than Brinikh and Popkov reviewed them were submitted to the court.

Brinikh told OVD Info that the court had refused to admit two defenders to the case: retired judge Oleg Alexeev and Zaurbiya Chundyshko (an ethnic Adyghe), chair of the Maykop grassroots organization Adhyge Khase. The presiding judge has refused to call to the stand the witnesses and experts whom Brinikh and his attorney had asked to testify, including the people who performed the computer and linguistic forensic examinations during the investigation. The defense has a number of questions for them.

According to police investigators, in the fall of 2014, Valery Brinikh produced a piece of extremist matter: the article “The Silence of the Lambs,” which dealt with the environmental problems cause by a hog farming facility in Adygea’s Teuchezhsky District. It was founded by Vyacheslav Derev, the Federation Council member for Karachaevo-Cherkessia.

Translated by the Russian Reader. Photo courtesy of Cogita.ru

Please read my previous posts on the Brinikh case:

It’s Dangerous to Quote Voltaire: The Case of Valery Brinikh, Part 3

It’s Dangerous to Quote Voltaire
ovdinfo.org
January 10, 2015

Valery Brinikh
Adygean Environmentalist Valery Brinikh

In Adygea, Valery Brinikh, chair of the regional branch of the All-Russian Society for Nature Conversation (VOOP), has been charged with aiding and abetting extremist activity and subjected to travel restrictions. According to investigators, Brinikh “aided unidentified persons in disseminating information aimed at abasing the dignity of a person or group of persons on the basis of ethnicity and origin by creating extremist material.” Abasement of dignity charges (Russian Federal Criminal Code Article 282.1) were filed in December 2014. They were occasioned by publication of the article “The Silence of the Lambs” on the website For Krasnodar! The article details the environmental damaged caused to Adygea’s Teuchezhsky District by pollution from an industrial pig-breeding facility. The company that runs the facility, Kiev0-Zhuraki Agrobusiness JSC, was founded by Vyacheslav Derev, who represents Karachay-Cherkessia in the Federation Council, Russia’s upper house of parliament.

Several days after the charges were filed, the article was deemed extremist. According to Brinikh’s defense attorney, Alexander Popkov, the [next-to-last] sentence in the article, which quotes Voltaire’s argument that God helps those battalions that shoot best, could have been the main reason it was deemed extremist.

“The word ‘shoot’ is forbidden; it is an awful word. ‘Battalions’ is also an awful word. And Voltaire was a freethinker,” Popkov says ironically.

Brinikh was for a long time officially regarded as a suspect in the case. According to Popkov, investigators have no proof that it was his client who wrote the article, but they claim he aided “persons unknown” in disseminating it.

The indictment does not make clear exactly whose dignity was abased by the article. Popkov recounts that, initially, investigators said that Brinikh “had offended public officials.” Ethnic motives were also discussed.

In the written petition, filed by the Adygea Prosecutor’s Office, asking the court to deem the article extremist, it says that “according to the findings of the linguistic analysis carried out by the Main Directorate of Internal Affairs in Krasnodar Krai (No. 17/7-119i, dated September 15, 2014), the text of the article ‘The Silence of the Lambs’ contains statements negatively evaluating a group of persons, united on the basis of ethnicity, the Adyghe (identified in the text as ‘cowards,’ ‘persons who lack self-esteem,’ and ‘lambs’).”

The article’s authors complains about the passivity of the local populace, who refuse to defend their own interests.

Popkov notes Brinikh would not have wanted to humiliate the Adyghe.

“On the contrary,” says Popkov, “he advocated for them and visited them.”

The prosecutor’s petition also claims the article contains “statements that could be understood to incite ethnic Adyghe to take actions, probably involving violence, against a group of persons, i.e., the local authorities.”

According to Popkov, Brinikh’s aiding and abetting persons unknown “is supposedly confirmed by a phonoscopic examination: he allegedly spoke by telephone about posting the article on the Web.”

However, since the article was posted on the Web before criminal charges were filed and before it was declared extremist, it follows that Brinikh’s telephone was bugged before these events took place.

“The question arises: on what basis were they bugging him?” asks Popkov.

Translated by the Russian Reader

Editor’s Note. The following day, January 11, ovdinfo.org reported that Valery Brinikh’s trial on the above-mentioned charges would begin in Maykop City Court on January 19.

Please read my previous posts on the Brinikh case:

The Silence of the Lambs

A New Round in the Crackdown against Adygean Environmentalist Valery Brinikh
Adygea Supreme Court Upholds Decision Declaring Article “The Silence of the Lambs” Extremist
March 22, 2015
Environmental Watch on North Caucasus

On March 20, 2015, the Supreme Court of the Republic of Adygea heard an appeal filed by Valery Brinikh, chair of the Adygean branch of the All-Russian Society for Nature Conversation (VOOP), against a December 17, 2014, decision by the Maykop City Court in which Judge Irina Ramazanova had ruled Brinikh’s article “The Silence of the Lambs” extremist. The Supreme Court rejected Brinikh’s appeal.

f2d0e74c0b73Valery Brinikh

The article, published in August of last year, dealt with the environmental problems caused by Kievo-Zhuraki JSC, a pig-breeding facility located in Adygea’s Teuchezhsky District. Vyacheslav Derev, who represents Karachay-Cherkessia in the Federation Council, Russia’s upper house of parliament, founded Kievo-Zhuraki JSC. The publication of “The Silence of the Lambs” served as a spurious pretext for launching a crackdown against Valery Brinikh and stopping his environmental work by any means possible. All of the republic’s law enforcement agencies, working in concert, as if on orders and following a unified plan, started a campaign of persecution against Brinikh. The republic’s FSB office and the Russian Interior Ministry’s Extremism Prevention Department (Center “E”) in Adygea led the investigation. The Adygean Prosecutor’s Office filed the lawsuit requesting that the article be ruled extremist, while the Investigation Department of the Russian Investigative Committee in the Republic of Adygea filed extremism charges against Brinikh under Article 282 of the Russian Federal Criminal Code. Only the timely intervention of the Presidential Human Rights Council and its chair, Mikhail Fedotov, who made a special trip for the purpose to Maykop, helped alleviate the attack on Brinikh to some extent. However, the ruling made by the Adygean Supreme Court on March 20 shows that the authorities have decided to proceed with the criminal case against Brinikh.

Judge Vera Meister presided at the first hearing of Brinikh’s appeal on March 10. However, a decision was not rendered in the case. Brinikh managed to sow doubts as to the admissibility of the only piece of the evidence in the case, a certified linguistic analysis of the article “The Silence of the Lambs,” which was produced by the criminal investigation. Brinikh pointed out that according to Russian Federal Constitutional Court Decision No. 18-O, dated February 4, 1999 (“On a Complaint by Citizens M.B. Nikolskaya and M.I. Sapronov That Their Constitutional Rights Had Been Violated by Individual Provisions of the Federal Law ‘On Criminal Investigations'”), the results of a criminal investigation cannot be admitted as evidence in court; they can only be admitted as such only after they have been secured through due process. The judge decided to postpone examination of the appeal for ten days, summoning the expert who conducted the linguistic analysis, Police Lieutenant Colonel Sergei Fedyayev, and questioning him in court. Judge Meister obviously crossed paths with forces that needed a fast and definite decision from the judge. Therefore, at the next hearing, on March 20, Brinikh’s appeal was heard by a new panel of judges. The presiding judge was Olga Kulinchenko, who is deputy chair of the Adygean Supreme Court and chair of the republic’s Council of Judges.

Despite this lofty status, Judge Kulinchenko violated procedural requirements from the outset of the hearing. The expert witness invited to give testimony was not removed from the courtroom prior to being questioned, and he was not made to sign an acknowledgement that he had been warned about criminal liability for perjury. During questioning, the chief expert from the Forensic Center of the Main Directorate of Internal Affairs in Krasnodar Krai was unable to explain why he had been assigned the analysis by the deputy head of the Federal Security Service (FSB) in the Republic of Adygea, and not by the head of the Forensic Center, as stipulated by the Law “On State Forensic Expertise in the Russian Federation.” To explain how the package containing the material for linguistic analysis had been delivered to him in Krasnodar by guarded courier post from Maykop in five minutes (a trip that takes between ninety minutes to two hours by car), Fedyayev claimed that his working day began at 7 a.m. (According to the certified linguistic analysis, the work on it was begun at 9:05 a.m. on March 15, on orders, dated March 15, from the deputy head of the Federal Security Service in the Republic of Adygea.) In keeping with this line of argument, when he signed the accompanying letter on March 15 in Maykop, the deputy head of the Federal Security Service’s office in Adygea would have had to have been at work in the wee hours of Monday morning, March 15, as would have his clerk, who registered the letter. Therefore, the method of the ultra-fast delivery from Maykop to Krasnodar of the package containing the publication remains a mystery. These discrepancies did not trouble Judge Kulinchenko, however. During closing arguments, she constantly interrupted Brinikh, preventing him from fully stating his case and hurrying to finish the spectacle, whose ending was predetermined. The two other judges on the panel were flagrantly bored, since, apparently, they knew in advance how it would all turn out.

And that is what happened. The hearing, a shameful episode for the Russian judicial community, ended with the judges rejecting Brinikh’s appeal against the lower court’s ruling. Thus, as of March 20, the article “The Silence of the Lambs” is officially deemed extremist.

Now we should expect an abrupt reactivation of the investigation into the charges filed against Valery Brinikh on December 11, 2014, under Article 282.1 of the Russian Federal Criminal Code (“incitement to hatred or hostility, and humiliation of human dignity on the basis of ethnicity”). The investigation can now base its conclusions on the Maykop City Court’s ruling, which is now final and legally binding, something that it previously had critically lacked to legitimize this critical case.

The purpose of all these actions is obvious: to railroad, through the combined efforts of the local offices of the FSB, the Interior Ministry’s Center “E,” the Investigative Committee, the prosecutor’s office, and the courts, one of Russia’s most active conservationists, a man who prevents corrupt officials and unscrupulous businessmen from living peacefully.

For more information, call +7 (918) 425-8435

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“The silence of the lambs”: why the smell of manure must be endured
Elena Borovskaya
December 23, 2014
openrussia.org

How an Adygean environmentalist “fomented hatred” and “incited” locals “to action” in his fight against a Federation Council member’s pig farm

Criminal charges have been filed against Valery Brinikh, head of the Adygean branch of the All-Russian Society for Nature Conversation for an article he published on the Internet, “The Silence of the Lambs.” Brinikh has been accused of inciting hatred and calling for extremist actions under Article 282.1 of the Russian Federal Criminal Code. Observers have linked the persecution of the environmentalist to his long campaign against a pig farm owned by Russian Federation Council member Vyacheslav Derev, which has been polluting the surrounding area with manure.

The article “The Silence of the Lambs” was published on the website For Krasnodar! on September 8, 2014. Currently, the article has been deleted from the site and is available only in search engine caches. In the article, Brinikh describes his meetings with residents of the villages of Gabukay and Assokolay in the Teuchezhsky District, who had complained of the stench from the Kievo-Zhuraki JSC pig-breeding facility and other environmental problems. Local authorities made note of the trip there undertaken by Brinikh and his environmentalist colleagues. In Assokolay, they were greeted by prosecutors, policemen, and Center “E” officers instead of villagers. Sharing his impressions in the article, Brinikh criticizes the passivity of local residents in defending their rights and their “fear of tsars,” quoting aphorisms by Voltaire, and Russian and Adyghe proverbs in the process.

On November 20, the Adygea Prosecutor’s Office petitioned the court to rule the article “The Silence of the Lambs” extremist on the basis of an examination performed in conjunction with the local office of the Federal Security Service (FSB).  According to the document, a linguistic analysis performed by the Main Directorate of Internal Affairs in Krasnodar Krai showed that the article contained statements “that could be understood on the basis of ethnicity [and] origin [sic] to promote the degradation of the human dignity” of a group of persons (the Adyghe), as well as statements “that could be understood to incite [the Adyghe] to take actions probably related to violence against a group of persons, [i.e.,] ‘representatives of the local authorities.'”

On December 17, the Maykop City Court satisfied the request by the Adygea Prosecutor’s Office and ruled the article “The Silence of the Lambs” extremist. At the previous court hearing, on December 12, Brinikh became ill and was taken by ambulance to the Republican Hospital. After he underwent medical procedures, Brinikh was taken into custody by police, who informed him he had been charged under Article 282 of the Russian Federal Criminal Code and took him to his residence to conduct a search. Brinikh was then questioned by the Investigation Department of the Russian Investigative Committee in Adygea and released on his own recognizance. However, investigators attempted to prevent lawyer Ludmila Alexandrova from seeing Brinikh, writes the website Environmental Watch on North Caucasus.

The same day, police investigators arrested Vitaly Isayenko, moderator of the website For Krasnodar! in Krasnodar and took him to Maykop for questioning in the “Silence of the Lambs” case. Lawyers did not know his whereabouts for a long time. According to activist Alexander Yesipyonok, investigators questioned Isayenko through the night, after which he was hospitalized in serious condition due to an aggravation of his diabetes.

Yesipyonok is convinced there are no statements in the article “The Silence of the Lambs” that could be construed as extremist or offensive.

“Rather than supporting Valery Brinikh in his fight to preserve a clean environment, the law enforcement authorities of the Republic of Adygea have organized his criminal prosecution by arbitrarily interpreting the laws, committing numerous procedural violations, and engaging in flagrant psychological pressure,” he wrote in a letter to the editors of Open Russia.

Observers have linked the criminal case against Brinikh to his fight against violations of environmental law by Kievo-Zhuraki Agribusiness JSC, an industrial pig-breeding facility owned by Vyacheslav Derev, Karachay-Cherkessia’s representative in the Federation Council. Brinikh’s confrontation with Kievo-Zhuraki has lasted for several years. According to environmentalists, the facility has caused a permanent stench in the surrounding villages, and discharges of manure have repeatedly killed off fish and seedlings in the fields. After a series of articles by Brinikh, Kievo-Zhuraki management filed a lawsuit to protect its commercial reputation, but the court sided with the environmentalist. In addition to environmental issues, Brinikh has written about corruption: about the ties between Derev and Adygean authorities, and abuses during construction of the pig-breeding facility.

The Presidential Human Rights Council has announced it will be monitoring the Brinikh case. Council chair Mikhail Fedotov and Greenpeace Russia’s executive director Sergei Tsyplenkov studied the situation when they visited Adygea during a field meeting of the council in Krasnodar Territory from December 15 to 17.

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In dealing since 2012 with the problems caused by the illegal operations of Kievo-Zhuraki Agribusiness JSC, I have often met with local residents who complained to me about the stench from the pig sheds. However, despite the increased activism of our organization in the Teuchezhsky District, at present there is not a single member of the All-Russian Society for Nature Conservation in this municipality. It has just so happened that the main core of our organization in the republic is made up of residents of Maykop and the Maykop District, while there are almost no members of the Society in Adygea’s ethnic districts.

To remedy this situation, I had asked my Adyghe friends to organize meetings with local residents in the villages of the Teuchezhsky District. We needed to look for assistants in our environmental work. The negative impact of Kievo-Zhuraki Agribusiness JSC’s pig-breeding facility on the environment and people’s health was a good occasion for such meetings. It would be interesting to hear directly from the people who lived next door to the pig-breeding facility whether they enjoyed having such a neighbor or not. It was also interesting to see whether we could count on the villagers of the Teuchezhsky District in our fight with the polluting pig producers, who had been violating Russian law and people’s right to a healthy environment.

From long years of personal experience I knew how hard it was encourage ordinary folk in our country to engage in more vigorous actions. Since Soviet times, our people have been used to letting off steam in the kitchen, in narrow circles of likeminded people, while in public they approve any moves made by the authorities, however idiotic. Still, I nourished a glimmer of hope that they had not all grown accustomed to the smell of pig manure, that not everyone was happy with the fact that fish were going belly up in the local ponds, and that the authorities would not lift a finger to improve the situation.

But the reality proved harsher, both to me and to my hopes. First, we stopped at Gabukay, which is located literally right next to the buildings of the pig farm. The village was not crowded on that quiet August evening. In the center, right on the square, about a dozen mainly elderly men were relaxing and playing chess on benches. Among them was the man whom my good friend Kasei Khachegogu had brought me to meet. After introducing myself, I asked the villagers how they liked living next to the pig farm. And immediately it was like something in those people exploded. It turned out they felt there was nothing good about having such a neighbor. But they smelled the stench from the fields and sensed the indifference of the authorities, both local and Adygean, in solving the problems of the village of Gabukay. For, as it transpired, the village had many other environmental problems. For example, back in the day the authorities had altered the course of the river Pshish, and now there were problems with the old riverbed. According to local residents, the authorities had skimped on reclamation works. To put it simply, they had stolen part of the funds allotted, so the work was done not to plan but catch-as-catch-can. Consequently, the old riverbed has become overgrown and has not been irrigated. It has thus become a breeding ground for snakes right on the outskirts of the village. And there is plenty of garbage in the vicinity of Gabukay, just as near any rural settlement in Adygea, because the only authorized solid waste landfills are outside of Maykop and Adygeisk.

After chatting with people and handing out application forms for joining the All-Russian Society for Nature Conversation, we hurried on to the village of Assokolay. Frankly, we were hoping we would find more people there. Especially because we had given the residents of Assokolay prior warning through fellow villagers that we would be coming to meet with the people and survey them about pressing environmental problems. However, as soon as they drove into the village, my comrades met a woman they knew hurrying home from the center. She told them that people were already waiting for us near the local House of Culture; only they were not village residents, but police and prosecutors from Adygeisk. And the people who had been there to meet us had simply been dispersed to their homes. The woman advised us not to go there, but to return to Maykop. It was all the same, she said, because we could not talk to anyone but law enforcement officers.

We decided to go all the way to the end: as they say, to drink the cup to the dregs. The square outside the club really was crowded. Waiting for us there were Lieutenant Colonel Ruslan Akhidjak, head of the Adygeisk intermunicipal police department, his deputy, and a dozen of his officers, including several patrol cars. Also in attendance were the Teuchezhsky interdistrict deputy prosecutor, an officer from the extremism prevention department, and several more “men in black.” The local residents were in the minority: around ten to fifteen people in all. As soon as we got out of our vehicles, we were immediately showered with reproaches. Why hadn’t we notified the authorities of our arrival? We tried to explain that we had not been planning any public events, but had only wanted to talk to the villagers, ask them about problems, and suggest that they join the All-Russian Society for Nature Conservation. The fact is that in this case our organization would have a greater chance of defending the rights and interests of local residents, including protecting them from the negative impacts of Kievo-Zhuraki Agribusiness JSC’s pig farm.

In the end, I insisted that, since we had come all the way from Maykop, we would talk to however many people showed up. That is just what we did: under the watchful eye of police officers and prosecutors, and with a female officer from the Adygeisk police department standing next to us with a tape recorder turned on. Basically, the conversation was a repeat of the conversation we had had in Gabukay. The only difference was that there were two elderly men present who had gone with me to the court hearings in Adygeisk when our organization had been in a lawsuit with Kievo-Zhuraki Agribusiness JSC last spring. Thus, the conversation was more heated. We were accused of not having scored any victories in our campaign against the law-breaking pig producers. I had to explain that we have won victories, albeit small ones, and that in conditions of total corruption it would be pointless to expect quick and easy victories in the fight against dirty businessmen. That it would be much easier for me if in the district as a whole and in every village and farm we had active assistance. It is one thing when two or three witnesses come to a court hearing and testify that it stinks where they live, and quite another if hundreds of people would gather in the square outside the court and demand that Kievo-Zhuraki Agribusiness JSC stop poisoning people’s lives. Perhaps the judge, even if he or she had been “inspired” by their superiors, would find it much more difficult morally to hand down an unjust ruling.

And I also said that Kievo-Zhuraki Agribusiness JSC had stocked up on all sorts of certificates and evaluations approving their operations, and that was all the officials who inspected them needed to see. In reality, nobody had really inspected the pig producers and punished them. I see all the violations; I know how to punish the guilty parties and, most importantly, how to remedy the situation. But I am a social activist, and I am not authorized to do this, while those who do have the authority do not wish to use it. The regime despises the people, and the people despise this regime. They despise it and fear it. It is a vicious circle. To paraphrase the famous saying, every people deserves the regime it tolerates.

I was saying all this while secretly mulling over the thought that the authorities in Adygea feared any independent opinion, any unauthorized sigh. Look, a whole flock of them had flown into Assokolay, not even begrudging going to work on a Friday evening, right before the weekend. Apparently, local law enforcement was under strict orders from the Adygean government to prevent the opposition (and all real social activists and environmentalists are always in opposition to any government) from meeting with the local population. I recalled the anti-corruption rallies that had not been held because of the authorities, and the rally we had wanted to hold on June 5, World Environment Day, which had been dispersed by police. They clearly know who butters their bread.

Speaking of fat, I have always wondered why it was decided to place the pigsties amid the Adyghe villages and not somewhere in the Russian-speaking region of Adygea. Why is Kievo-Zhuraki Agribusiness JSC planning to raise cows outside of Maykop while it breeds pigs in the Teuchezhsky District? You find yourself involuntarily wondering whether Adygea’s current authorities have not done this on purpose. Because in practical terms, excuse my use of jargon, the Muslim population has been “punked,” meaning it has been humiliated to the point where people have lost their self-esteem. Humiliated people are easier to manage: you can wrap them round your little finger. And that is what is done to them. As Khazret Bogus, a local farmer and born columnist from the village of Krasnoe, wrote, there is an Adyghe saying: If you have tackled shit, hold on tight, because you have been soiled all the same. The Holy Quran forbids the faithful from eating pork, except in cases when they are forced to eat it. But who or what has forced the Adyghe to breathe manure-polluted air and swim in ponds poisoned by sewage? Nothing but cowardice and a lack of self-esteem. How does living in filth differ from the consumption of pork? For, according to the Quran, the pig is considered a dirty animal, because it lives in filth. But the residents of the Teuchezhsky District also, as a matter of fact, live in filth. It turns out that the stench from Kievo-Zhuraki Agribusiness JSC’s pig farm poisons not only people’s bodies but also their souls.

People used to sing, “No one will grant us deliverance, / No god, no tsar, no hero. / We will win our liberation, / With our very own hands.” Now they sing completely different songs, songs tolerant of the powers that be and the shit they generously reward people for their obedience. And they themselves place their hope in God, fear the tsar, and hope a hero will save them. No hero will save you, my dear fellow countrymen, until you cease being afraid of tsars. And God will not help you until you roll up your sleeves. The Russians have a saying: “God helps those who help themselves.” And the great French thinker Voltaire argued that God helps those battalions that shoot best.

So when are we going to start shooting better, villagers?