LIVE UPDATES: The Moscow Military District Court has failed to put together a jury in the trial for the murder of opposition leader Boris Nemtsov.
Welcome to our column, Russia Update, where we will be closely following day-to-day developments in Russia, including the Russian government’s foreign and domestic policies.
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And among the hostages just happened to be Gleb Bryansky, deputy editor-in-chief of TASS, the state wire service, who said Petrosyan smoked a lot and seemed nervous, and even apologized for his act.
“He hostage-taker didn’t look like a hardened criminal but a desperate man.” It may be that even within the first minutes of the drama, police determined that the man wasn’t a terrorist and therefore decided to have Kolokoltsev come.
He explained that he wouldn’t have taken this step if he could have resolved his financial issues with the authorities.
He let out one bank employee who told him she was pregnant. Then the guard managed to escape on his own, said TASS.
The bank happened to be a branch of the New-York based Citibank on Bolshaya Nikitinskaya Street.
All of these details taken together are likely to cause many on social media to wonder if the entire incident was staged for maximum press benefit to distract from other dramas of war and corruption. But it’s also just as likely that a man adversely affected by Russia’s economic crisis became very desperate.
— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick
UPDATES: See below.
A man is threatening to blow up a bank in Moscow.
At least two female hostages have been let go, but as many as four people may remain in the bank, Novaya Gazeta reports.
The man has asked that police come to the scene, and has demanded negotiators.
The Interior Ministry himself has gone to the scene.
Translation: We found in VKontakte the man who seized the bank in the center of Moscow. He asked for help from Putin 2011.
We will have more updates as the story proceeds.
Police have preliminarily identified the man who has taken hostages and threatened to blow up a bank as Aram Petrosyan, born 1961, Lenta reported.
Translation: #Today The identity is established of the man who has seized the Moscow bank: Police have identified…
Gazeta has reported that Petrosyan has said, “I came not to rob the bank but to seize the bank”.
He added, “Even the women left their money out of fear but I said, take it.”
Spetsnaz have arrived at the scene, Gazeta reported.
Gazeta, citing RIA Novosti, says that police sources are telling reporters that the man appears to be a bankrupt businessman in a state of intoxication.
— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick
At a preliminary hearing on July 25, the judge agreed to impanel a jury for the trial after the defense’s petition.
But today, 45 of the people summoned out of 59 announced they could not serve due to personal reasons.
“It’s suspiciously a lot of people who have withdrawn; I think that people are simply afraid of the person who is behind this crime.”
The jury selection is now postponed until September 28.
The jury system was introduced in Russia in 1993 in a pilot program in some regions, and by 2003 was established throughout Russia except for Chechnya, which finally began them in 2010. Jury trials are for only a limited number of crimes, i.e. terrorism trials are excluded. According to research by Sergei Tomakov, jury trials thus make up only five percent of all trials, but they have a much higher acquittal rate than other trials: 20%.
The institution of jury duty as a civic duty enforced by law is not established in Russia, where judges cannot compel service, and lists for summoning prospective jurists are flawed and outdated. Because of the legacy of Soviet repression, people are inclined to side with the defendant, which has engendered the phenomena of judges often deliberately committing reversible errors in trials, so that prosecutors will have grounds for appeal if a jury is determined to acquit. Many jury verdicts are overturned on appeal to the Supreme Court, says Tomakov.
It is widely believed by opposition and human rights activists as well as the independent media that the real mastermind of the assassination of Nemtsov is not on trial and has escaped justice.
The defendants are Zaur Dadayev, who is believed to be the trigger man; the brothers Anzor Gubashev and Shadid Gubashev; Tamerlan Eskerkhanov and Khamzat Bakhayev. Ruslan Mukhudinov, a former Chechen officer has been placed on an international wanted list and is believed to have fled Russia. He was the driver for Ruslan Geremeyev, the deputy commander of Sever who has not been charged but is believed to have organized the murder.
At various times since their detention in March 2015, the defendants have given testimony and then retracted it, saying it was made under torture.