A Lawyer and his Defense: an interview with Sergey Brovchenko By Grigory Pasko, journalist The pressure being put on the lawyers participating in the so-called “YUKOS case” is but a continuation of a long-established system of ignoring the very profession of defender in Russia. Here’s a typical story. A lawyer is successfully defending a client. In the end, he himself becomes a victim of persecution on the part of the investigative organs. I know of such examples both in Vladivostok and in Moscow… Sergey Brovchenko became a lawyer after leaving the KGB. In 1996, he started to defend a person against whom the charges had been fabricated. His client was acquitted. However, a criminal case was initiated against Brovchenko himself, and he was sentenced to deprivation of liberty for a term of 9 years. Photo of Sergey Brovchenko by Grigory Pasko The sentence he received was repealed three times upon the protest of deputy chairmen of the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation. Nevertheless, the lawyer was held in confinement for more than six years without a sentence having entered into legal force. He has officially restored his status as an Advocate [equivalent to “Member of the Bar”]. However, justice has not yet triumphed fully: his complaint against Russia is currently at the European Court of Human Rights. In November 2003, Russian human rights advocates declared S. Brovchenko to be a political prisoner of Russia. In February 2004, Brovchenko became the defender of another former FSB officer turned lawyer: Mikhail Trepashkin, the criminal case with respect to whom had also been fabricated and who is being held in confinement to this day for supposedly having disclosed a state secret. From the biography of Sergey Brovchenko: In 1988 entered into military service in the organs of the KGB of the USSR. After completing Higher Courses of the KGB of the USSR in the city of Kiev, he was sent for undergoing service to the Administration of the KGB of the USSR for Chernovtsy Oblast, where he underwent service in the capacity of an operative plenipotentiary [operupolnomochenny. See Translator’s note on “operative tracking group” at end of Grigory Pasko’s Exclusive Interview with Khodorkovsky Prison Informant], and later an investigator. After the breakup of the USSR, he filed a report on transfer into a civilian organization. Has been working as a lawyer since 1992. I recently caught up with lawyer Sergey Brovchenko, and asked him to answer certain questions. Sergey, if an officer of the KGB or the FSB leaves for the bar, is that good or bad?
Nobody will tell you. I left the organs because circumstances just turned out that way: the breakup of the Soviet Union and, essentially, the breakup of the KGB system. And I left by transfer into a civilian organization. By the way, in his day Vladimir PUtin also left the KGB by transfer.
Okay, I understand. That is, not because you had dishonoured the high calling of a chekist, not for any other bad reasons, but because you had no other choice, so to speak. And what were you doing while you were with the KGB in the Ukraine?
In Chernovtsy, among other things, I was involved with the cases of former Ukrainian nationalists. The kind of documents I studied convinced me that many people had been prosecuted unlawfully, without the proper grounds. There was one interesting incident. I was having a talk with one woman in the same office where she had been interrogated by NKVD officers many years before. She even told me that they’d beaten her in this office. So after incidents like that, I understand those who took weapons in hand and fought against those who persecuted them.
Do you see any analogies with what’s happening today?
Yes, Chechnya. This is a delayed-action mine. Russia’s policy in Daghestan, in Chechnya is a mistaken policy. I’d spoken with many FSB officers and told them that a specific policy is needed to extinguish the conflict. What we’re getting is an embittered populace that is negatively disposed towards the Russian authorities.
Did you know Politkovskaya?
Yes, I worked together with Anna Politkovskaya in Daghestan: she as a journalist, and I as a lawyer. I was defending the human rights advocate Osman Boliyev then. Fortunately, Osman was acquitted, but he was forced to leave Russia. Now he’s received political asylum in Sweden. Anna was writing about this case then. And she wrote, as always, honestly. She was respected for that. And for this, I think, she was killed by those who had no respect. She had a great deal of credibility, because she wrote the truth. I saw how she interacted with the chief of the FSB Administration for Chechnya. I do not believe the FSB was involved in Politkovskaya’s murder. It was other forces…
According to independent investigators of her murder, the tracks could lead to Chechen president Ramzan Kadyrov and his circle.
Quite possible. She did a lot of writing about the lawlessness of Ramzan’s circle. Kadyrov Junior [his father had been president before him—Trans.] was hostile to what Anna was doing – many people know about this. She was killed for her professional activity. People are afraid of Kadyrov. He’s his own god and judge over there. Russia’s made a mistake in placing its cards on him in that region.
What do you think about the so-called “death squads” that could have been involved in killings of recent years, in particular the poisoning of ex-FSB officer Alexander Litvinenko?
I don’t believe in the death squads, and especially that they have been created by the FSB. Although I do allow that certain former officers might be dissatisfied with something or somebody. This needs to be investigated. There are decent people in the FSB. The youth isn’t bad. There are decent FSB administration chiefs in the regions.
I’ve got my own experience in dealing with FSB officers, so I could argue strongly with you about the youth and the chiefs. But we’re not here to talk about that. What do you think about the attempt on Chubais and about the role in this story of the former officer of the main investigative administration (GRU) of the Ministry of Defense, Kvachkov?
You can find thugs anywhere. It’s quite possible that Kvachkov is an ideological fighter. A spontaneous desire to take revenge on Chubais as the head reformer and, in the opinion of many, the organizer of all of Russia’s misfortunes, could have been taken up by certain parties with the aim of somehow taking revenge on Chubais, so to speak, in the name of all the people and their suffering.
Would I be right in guessing that you don’t believe Litvinenko was killed by his colleagues, either? Although there is an example: Yandarbiyev’s killers, I think, aren’t feeling very uncomfortable within the confines of Russia.
I believe that Litvinenko was murdered, poisoned. This case needs to be thoroughly investigated. All the theories need to be studied, including the involvement of former FSB officers, and the Chechen trail… Yes, I think the killers of Zelimkhan Yandarbiyev are quite comfortable, ostensibly sitting in places of deprivation of liberty. Our GULAG is a very secretive system. Over there in Chita the new trial is starting in the YUKOS case. And our justice, too, is inscrutable.
It is known that you are the lawyer of Mikhail Trepashkin, former FSB officer, convicted for disclosing a state secret. It has been known for a long time that such a charge, as a rule, has nothing to do with reality and serves merely as a means for ruthlessly dealing with an unwanted person. How are things with Trepashkin right now?
If one can say that the KGB has a soul, then that soul is Trepashkin. We are doing everything possible to get him released so he can return to work at his profession as a lawyer. The next court session to challenge the reprimands laid on by the prison colony administration Mikhail is supposed to take place on March 9. Trepashkin is a very knowledgeable jurist, a top-notch lawyer. He defended the Morozova sisters, connected with the apartment house bombings in Moscow. All of his former KGB colleagues speak positively of him. The charges against him are absurd. So phoney that, for example, the one involving the planted pistol fell apart in trial. It’s possible that this is someone from the military procuracy and FSB leadership taking revenge. Trepashkin told about his conflict with the FSB leadership. They’re lynching him for having taken an active position. You can see that there’s a contract that’s been put out to deal harshly with him. We are hoping that the next court will find the reprimands laid on him to have been unlawful.
Like it was with Mikhail Khodorkovsky, when the courts repealed the reprimands laid on him during the time he was in the colony of Krasnokamensk? What do you think of the YUKOS case anyway?
I understand that this is unlawful prosecution, without grounds. This is clearly a lynching. Only the European Court of Human Rights, probably, will be able to change something in this case. That is, it will place on record the facts of violations of the European Convention. This will serve as grounds for a re-examination of the entire case. We do not have a good court system. And the procuracy investigates cases itself and oversees their investigation. This is not right. If a person has been sitting in confinement for some time [before trial—Trans.], then 99 times out of 100 he will be deprived of liberty [sentenced to a prison term—Trans.]: just so the procurators and judges wouldn’t be punished [for having put an innocent person through the ordeal of arrest and trial—Trans.]. The investigation function needs to be taken away from the procuracy. An independent organ needs to be created – an investigative committee. Court chairmen need to be elected by their fellow judges, so judges wouldn’t be dependent on the chairman.
In your opinion, what do you think, has the FSB changed today?
The FSB is a part of the existing system. Many have left for various reasons, including because they didn’t want to work in the existing system. In our country, the FSB, the MVD, and other siloviki structures are unjustifiably closed off from society. So closed off that at times you get the feeling that even the president doesn’t know the true state of affairs in these organs. And all we can do about this is regret it.