Artist Sergei Sotov claims he was tricked into being used against Navalny

3 September 2014

Source: HRO.org (info)
‘I did not want to get a criminal case opened against opposition blogger Aleksei Navalny over the theft of my painting "Bad Man and Good Man." I was just tricked into it’, said the artist Sergei Sotov. According to Zaks.ru, the work of the artist Sergei Sotov, entitled "Bad Man and Good Man", was stolen from one of the central streets of the Russian city of Vladimir by an unidentified person. As part of the investigation into this case several members of the Anti-Corruption Foundation have been questioned, as well as Aleksei Navalny’s wife, Yulia Navalnaya. The houses of several members of the Foundation were even searched without a court ruling, on the basis of ‘urgent circumstances.’

Sotov reported that he himself used to hang his paintings up in the streets and that they are often taken away, but it does not bother him.

‘I've always positively related to this! People have written on my paintings and taken them away. The most important thing to me was for people to see my paintings and understand them. And when one of the works went missing, I put up a new one instead,’ the news website Russian Planet quoted Sotov as saying.

In the case of the painting "Bad Man and Good Man," the artist says that he was simply tricked. ‘I did not want to write any statement. I was called at home by some people, who introduced themselves as officials of the administration of Vladimir region, and who said that we had to meet. They took me by car to the fence where my works were placed. They began filming me with a video camera. That is why I was very happy and flattered, they overpraised me,’ said Sotov.

After that, according to the ‘victim’, police put him in a car and gave him some forms to fill in, one of which had a statement about a missing painting. The form was already filled in and the artist was only asked to sign it. ‘So they handed me the form which was already filled in, I tried to read it. Then I signed it in a rush. I could not read the handwriting! The light they had on was very dim... and I was hurrying home; I was so fed up with all the fuss. In any case, I am a trusting person. That is why I signed it and left,’ says Sotov.

When the story became front page news, the artist wanted to take his statement back, but he was refused on the grounds that the document was lost.

‘Then I went to the police to withdraw my signature. There I was told that they could not find my statement! They promised to call me if they found it, but they didn’t call me. I wanted to withdraw the statement, it was not my idea. They abused my trust in them. So what has happened since then? This is just a political struggle, apparently against Navalny. I just got caught up in all this by chance,’ said Sotov, adding that he was ready to offer the painting to Navalny as a gift.

Opposition blogger Navalny himself has said that the case was opened to put pressure on the employees of the Anti-Corruption Foundation who are investigating important Russian officials.

"They need to fabricate a case against the Anti-Corruption Foundation, and especially our investigations department: Alburov and Kulachenkov are the main targets. Their houses have been searched and their computers confiscated,’ explained the persecuted activist Aleksei Navalny.

Translated by Ana-Maria Sibur
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