Aleksei Pichugin, the last Yukos prisoner

posted 26 Jun 2014, 00:07 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 26 Jun 2014, 00:11 ]
18 June 2014

Vera Vasilieva

Former Yukos security official Aleksei Pichugin was arrested 11 years ago on 19 June 2003. This was the beginning of a long process which would end with the expropriation and liquidation of the oil company. Most shocking, however, was the havoc wreaked on human lives. Pichugin was the first to be arrested in an attempt to force him to give false evidence against Mikhail Khodorkovsky. He is also the last among his Yukos colleagues still behind bars, while the others have all been freed.

Since the release of Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Platon Lebedev, the Yukos case has ceased to make the headlines. First it was eclipsed by the Bolotnaya Square case, then by the tragic events in Ukraine. This is understandable – nobody can follow the same story with undivided attention for 11 years. For those involved in the case, however, the drama continues.

On 23 October 2012, the European Court of Human Rights issued a decision stating that Aleksei Pichugin was not given a fair trial according to his lawful rights.

One year later, however, the Presidium of the Russian Supreme Court refused to overturn Pichugin’s conviction.

Memorial Human Rights Centre considers Aleksei Pichugin to be a political prisoner.

Mikhail Khodorkovsky told journalists in a recent interview that if it were not for Pichugin’s great strength of will, the former Yukos chief could have been not be in Switzerland but in the dock once again on trumped-up charges of conspiracy to murder.

In 2013, a few people approached Pichugin and asked him to give damning evidence against Khodorkovsky, promising to reduce his life sentence.

A source close to the investigation told me confidentially that he believed Pichugin’s trial was not carried out as it should have been.

The real perpetrators of those murders and attempted murders for which Pichugin was framed are still out there, wandering around scot free.

An article by journalist Aleksandr Borin published in the newspaper Sovershenno Sekretno lists the many discrepancies in Pichugin’s case in detail.

On the eleventh anniversary of Aleksei Pichugin’s arrest, the portal will publish an interview with author Natalia Tochilnikova and an extract from her book, Murder Myths. This extract is devoted to two incidents involving East Petroleum chief Evgeny Rybin which were not been mentioned in the newspaper cited above.

Natalia Tochilnikova’s work is, in its own way, unique. Unlike the coverage of Aleksei’s court trial published on the portal and by the Prague-based Human Rights Publishers, it is an independent investigation into the crimes themselves. The only person to do have carried out something similar is Novaya Gazeta journalist Valery Shiryaev, whose work became the outstanding book Court of Vengeance: the first victim of the Yukos case (Sud Mesti: pervaya Zhertva dela Yukosa). In this book, however, only Pichugin’s first criminal case ­– accused of conspiring to kill Olga and Sergei Gorin – is discussed.

Aleksei Pichugin, as the verdict was announced at his trial on 17 August 2007. Photo: ITAR TASS 

Natalia Tochilnikova is better known as the author of the most detailed biography of Mikhail Khodorkovsky to date, which was issued by publishers Algorithm in two volumes: Khodorkovsky is innocent! and The life and fate of Mikhail Khodorkovsky.

The manuscript for Murder Myths has not yet found its publisher, but I very much hope it will.

I also hope that Aleksei Pichugin, who is still being punished simply for not considering ‘law’ and ‘honour’ to be empty words, will be released.

Translated by Catriona Gillham