“Not Only is Korovin on Trial, But All Honest People in Russia”

June 4, 2013
Vadim Korovin/ RIA Novosti Maxim Blinov

[In his blog on The New Times, opposition leader Ilya Yashin reports on the court appearance of Vadim Korovin, an activist from the Federation of Car Owners, who allegedly ran into a Traffic and Road Safety Inspector after refusing to yield right of way to an official motorcade. His treatment has attracted the attention of civic activists and journalists in Russia.—Ed.]

On June 3, Judge Svetlana Zhurilkina of the Odintsovo City Court turned down the petition of investigators to arrest Vadim Korovin, an activist of the Federation of Auto Owners. Korovin had failed to yield the right of way to a motorcade of Deputy Interior Minister Viktor Kiryanov, and according to investigators, ran into a Traffic and Road Safety Inspector who tried to stop him. In fact, investigators may now designate measures of restraint for Korovin tin the form of a signed pledge not to leave town.

About 60 journalists and civic activists came to the court in Odintsovo. They were unable to fit into the room assigned for the trial, so after the break the case was heard in a larger room. Everything went fairly calmly. Police did not even touch a picketer who stood outside with a poster “Not only is Korovin on trial, but all honest people in Russia”; they just took down his passport information.

The first surprise was that Prosecutor Natalya Zharova spoke against the investigators’ petition to remand Vadim Korovin in custody, since such a measure of restraint would look ridiculous and unlawful in contrast with his charges. I will note that this is in violation of the existing practice in Russia; usually prosecutors support the investigators’ petitions.

That’s understandable. Even if we leave aside the fact that authorities are trying to try Korovin under an article with the maximum punishment of 10 years of imprisonment, the traffic officer stated that he had suffered only a cut to his leg; that is, no serious injuries were inflicted on him. Usually, the accused is released under a pledge not to leave town; if Korovin wanted to hide from the investigation, he already had a whole three days for that.

Judge Zhurilkina’s decision also looks logical— the investigators were so unprofessional in doing their job, the materials of the case so clearly illustrated that the case was fabricated, that she simply had no choice. Of course, the investigators will now have a great temptation to seek revenge for that humiliation, but the strategic advantage is now on the side of Vadim and his defense. So if the lawyers do everything correctly, which I do not doubt, most likely the case will be closed before reaching trial.