This week the Russian procuracy, with its infinite fictional legal authority, successfully won an appeal to increase the sentence given to former Yukos security chief Alexei Pichugin on murder charges from 24 years to life in a hard labor gulag. Prosecutors have openly admitted that the case is a ploy to open proceedings against Leonid Nezvlin.
As I said in an interview published today with the Financial Times, these fabricated charges form part of a larger relentless and ruthless campaign against anyone and everyone involved in the Yukos Affair and anyone who happens to get in the way of the state’s theft of the company’s assets – be they a major auditor like PricewaterhouseCoopers or simply an innocent member of the legal team like Svetlana Bakhmina. We all recall how in 2004, the prosecution’s case against Pichugin was so entirely lacking in merit (they had no forensic evidence whatsoever, and only the testimony of a totally discredited imprisoned multi-murderer), that when it became clear that the jury was going to acquit him of these murder charges, the trial was suspended and the jury was dismissed. (See this BusinessWeek article from 2005 by Jason Bush). Subsequently several jurors came forward to the press and acknowledged that they were unconvinced by the procuracy’s case (interview with Russky Kurier). As Grigory Pasko noted in his profile of Pichugin he wrote for this blog, Alexey Venediktov, editor-in-chief of Echo Moskvy Radio, made the following comments about the case in December of 2005 on his show “Essence of Events.”:
“The verdict of the court that found Pichugin guilty did not convince me… They did not prove to me that he is a criminal. Several books have come out dedicated to this case, so to speak, to the so-called murder. There are no bodies. All the clues – this has been proven in the trial records – were found a year after the murder. Moreover, they had looked and not found anything, and then they found them in the very same place – in the same place, on a little stone. Everything else is based on the testimony of people who have been sentenced to life imprisonment. They find people in the prison camp who say ‘Yes indeed, he gave us instructions’. Many years after the event. For me, this is not convincing… There is a rule ‘No body, no case’. In the given instance, this is maybe even the only instance where this rule was overridden. Why such an exception? Whence such an exception? Why did such a thing happen? Super-such [sic]. How many murders in Russia, how many disappearances in Russia – and there are no such cases. And here, this is the only one, unique, and it just happens to be associated with ‘Yukos’.”
There’s no mistaking that the new sentence given to Pichugin is meant to send a strong message from the Kremlin. Not only are we preparing for the newly invented charges which have been preposterously added to Mikhail Khodorkovsky’s case (suspiciously timed to prevent his parole), but we must also prepare for literally any kind of invented criminal charge – because it has been shown repeatedly that a lack of evidence has never stopped the procuracy before. Perhaps I should even look into the Great Chicago Fire and the Srebrenica massacre to make sure the Russians don’t try to accuse my client of involvement?