Russia Legal News Blast, May 12, 2011

The part of the Russian legal scene that the public at large is very much aware of is the celebrity criminal cases. The last days were unusually high in the related news.

The Investigative Committee has initiated criminal proceedings against Alexei Navalny – the celebrity lawyer, champion of the minority shareholders right. Navalny calls the news an outrageous politically motivated invention.

Bank of Moscow advanced new accusationsagainst its former president, Mr. Borodin. Now it is accused ofillegally reducing the shareholding of the bank of Moscow in one of theEstonian banks. The case against Borodin, which is out of Russia, iswidely perceived as a politically motivated affair connected withcampaign of Kremlin against former mayor of Moscow Luzhkov.

On Friday, Moscow court has sentencedtwo individuals accused of killing lawyer Stanislav Markelov andjournalist Anastasia Baburina out of nationalist/ideological spite.Although relatives of the victims were satisfied with sentence (fewpeople actually doubted that the accused were indeed guilty as charged),the process was marred by several scandals including allegations ofjury manipulations. The main suspect, Nikita Tikhonov, has received lifesentence, his accomplice Eugenia Hasis -18 years of imprisonment.

President Medvedev suggested that all letters from various officialsto courts that can be interpreted as an attempt to influence courtdecisions be published on the web sitesof the relevant courts. The practice already exists in the HighestArbitrazh courts, and several such letters from mid-level officials andsome notorious politicians such as Vladimir Zhirinovsky were indeedpublished. This is an obvious part of the drive to limit the right tocontrol judicial decisions to the higher echelons of the executive.