At today’s hearing [in Sasha Skochilenko’s criminal trial on charges of disseminating knowingly false information about the Russian army], Sasha’s defense lawyers and Svetlana Drugoveyko-Dolzhanskaya, a linguist who conducted an independent forensic examination and found no knowingly false information in Sasha’s messages, were able to question one of the authors of the linguistic forensic examination [commissioned by the prosecution].
Olga Safonova, a specialist in political science (!), was enlisted to contribute to the linguistic forensic examination. But, as she was instructed to do by a staff member at the forensics expertise center, she evaluated whether what was written [on the anti-war “price tags” that Ms. Skochilenko is alleged to have posted in a Petersburg supermarket] was in line with the Russian Defense Ministry’s position, not whether it was truthful.
[Safonova] admitted that her analysis of one of the messages was “slightly misleading.” She was “at a loss” when asked to respond to the assertion that Sasha faces up to ten years in prison on the basis of such misleading conclusions, among other things.
After a recess (due to her heart problems, Sasha found it difficult to endure the stuffiness and lack of water), the examination of the witness was continued by Drugoveyko-Dolzhanskaya. Safonova was forced to admit that among the sources against which she checked Sasha’s messages, only the Defense Ministry’s website corresponded to her own definition of an official source — unlike the website Life.ru and anonymous Telegram channels. She also could not answer a school curriculum-level question about impersonal sentences, although their erroneous definition in the forensic examination is one of the “proofs” of Sasha’s guilt.
In addition to pointing out the errors in the forensic examination and its noncompliance with government standards, Drugoveyko-Dolzhanskaya recalled that, according to the Justice Ministry’s methodological recommendations, when an expert strays beyond their area of professional competence, it is a procedural error and is inadmissible [as evidence in court]. Safonova was forced to agree. Drugoveyko-Dolzhanskaya followed this up by asking a direct question: “Can you, as an expert, prove conclusively that Skochilenko knowingly falsified information?”
Safonova replied that she could not.
The new prosecutor abruptly interrupted her and requested that the hearing be postponed.
You can come out and support Sasha at 11:30 a.m on June 13. Many thanks to everyone who continues to attend the trial, shares information about the case, and donates money to pay the lawyers and buy food and medicine care packages! You can help Sasha financially here:
(Sofia S., Sberbank)
Source: Nadezhda Skochilenko (Facebook), 25 May 2023. Translated by the Russian Reader. The details for donating money to Ms. Skochilenko’s defense fund are only for people based in Russia.
In the late 1990s, St. Petersburg State University, for reasons unknown, gave away one of its dormitories on Vasilievsky Island — 10 Bering Street — with a two-story attic built on. Later, one of the university’s vice-rectors regretfully claimed that if the building had not been given away, the university would have had room to house over 500 students. Today, the building houses apartments (a three-bedroom flat there will run you 20 million rubles) and offices. It is owned by the Bering-10 Condominium Association, whose chair is Olga Diomidovna Safonova. She has the exact same name as an associate professor in the Faculty of Political Science at St. Petersburg State University.
Safonova has been involved as an expert witness in the criminal cases against [Petersburg anti-war protesters] Victoria Petrova, Sasha Skochilenko, and Vsevolod Korolev. They face up to ten years in prison if convicted. These are quotations from the expert analysis in the case against Victoria Petrova:
“Objective facts indicate that the war crimes against the civilian population of Ukraine have not been committed by the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation, but by the Kiev regime and the armed formations controlled by it.”
“The practical intent and purpose of the statements under examination [i.e., Victoria Petrova’s posts] consists in generating false ideas among readers (listeners) that the actions of the Russian federal leadership are condemned by society, as manifested by the threat of the use of nuclear weapons against Ukraine and against European countries. […] In the materials submitted for examination, the negative assessment of the policy of Russian federal state bodies vis-a-vis their deployment of Russian federal armed forces to protect the interests of the Russian Federation and its citizens and maintain international peace and security, is not supported by arguments and evidence.”
Safonova graduated first from St. Petersburg State University’s law faculty, then from its philology faculty. In 2005, she defended her dissertation in political science. Here is a quote from the abstract: “Social deprivation has become a characteristic feature of the lifestyle of a significant portion of the Russian populace. A drop in the level of real monetary income has entailed increased competition for survival, thereby generating an increase in the stratum of people whose intentions have become criminal, i.e., unlawful.”
At least until the mid-2010s, Safonova led an active social life. The Village found the academic’s picture in a dozen photo reportages from different parties, as published by Sobaka.ru and Geometria. Here she is at a presentation by the jewelry house Freywille; here, at the (now-closed) restaurant Gusto’s birthday party; and here, at the opening of XXXX Baltika Brew.
The Village spoke about Safonova with graduates of various faculties at St. Petersburg State University: their assessments of her were contradictory. Journalist Anastasia Romanova, who took Safonova’s lecture course on political science, remembered her as “the toughest teacher, whose pass-fail exam was very hard to pass.” “She honestly read the whole class the riot act,” said Romanova. “It was very scary to go to her.” Emile, a graduate of the political science faculty, where Safonova taught a course on law, recalls, on the contrary, that “the course was a formality,” and “at some point that woman just disappeared.” It was one of the easiest subjects to pass,” he said.
In 2012, commenting to Delovoi Peterburg on the newly adopted law on foreign agents, Safonova said, “There are many organizations that, under plausible pretexts, are engaged in near-subversive activities. We as a state should be concerned about this, and it’s good that this issue has been addressed.”
“I remember that Safonova gave what I thought were absurd descriptions of the political regimes in other countries. She said there was no democracy anywhere. It seems to me that most students found her unpleasant both as a teacher and as an apologist for the regime. A couple of days ago, a classmate sent me an article in Rotunda about her involvement in the expert analysis [in the case of Victoria Petrova]. I wasn’t surprised,” says Emile. Romanova adds, “She didn’t give the impression of being a stupid person. Arrogant, yes. I think she understands perfectly well what is happening now.”
Source: Julia Galkina, “Meet the experts who help jail anti-war protesters in Petersburg. They teach at St. Petersburg State University,” The Village, 14 March 2023. Translated by the Russian Reader