Rostov activist Kirill Skripin was held for almost six months on remand even though there is no CCTV footage of the alleged crime
Memorial Human Rights Centre, in accordance with international criteria, considers the prosecution of Rostov activist Kirill Skripin unlawful and politically motivated. We believe he was remanded in custody because of his political beliefs and because of his refusal to plead guilty to something he did not do. Moreover, placing him in custody is clearly disproportionate to the offence charged.
Memorial demands that the criminal charges against Kirill Skripin be dropped immediately. In addition, Memorial notes clear signs of political motivation in the prosecution of two other activists in the same criminal case: Mikhail Selitsky and Aleksei I.
In March 2021, several opposition activists were arrested in Rostov-on-Don: Kirill Skripin, Mikhail Selitsky, Denis Fatkullin, Veronika Goretskaya and also a minor, Aleksei I.
The day after they were arrested, RIA Novosti published a video provided by the FSB in which three people with hidden faces related how they had joined a Telegram chat room ‘moderated in Poland’ and were preparing to carry out ‘direct action against the government authorities.’
In addition, the FSB issued a press release stating that the activists who had been arrested had intended to stage ‘direct actions’, namely writing insulting graffiti on buildings and using improvised incendiary devices ‘against official buildings and the local FSB.’
Despite the high-profile media coverage, a criminal case was opened only with regard to the spraying of the words ‘PUTIN-THIEF’ [PUTIN-VOR] on the walls of two buildings in Rostov-on-Don.
Kirill Skripin, Mikhail Selitsky and the minor Aleksei I. were designated suspects in an investigation into an act of vandalism ‘committed by a group of people motivated by political hatred’ (Article 214, Part 2, of the Russian Criminal Code, which provides for punishment of up to three years in prison).
In April 2021, Skripin was remanded in custody allegedly because he tried to leave Russia. Skripin spent almost six months in custody and was released from pre-trial detention on 23 September 2021.
Mikhail Selitsky and the minor Aleksei I. remain suspects in the case.
The investigation is continuing.
Having studied the available materials of the case, Memorial has concluded that the guilt of Kirill Skripin has not been proven. There is no evidence to support the investigators’ assertion that Skripin painted the words ‘PUTIN-THIEF’ on the wall. On the contrary, witness testimony and photo and video materials available in the media indicate that the words in question were painted not by Skripin but by other people.
The circumstances of the activist’s arrest (Skripin’s home was searched in the early hours of the morning, followed by hours of interrogation) and the decision to remand him in custody were clearly disproportionate to the public danger of the act imputed to him.
The political motivation for Skripin’s prosecution is obvious. This is not only seen in the fact that he was charged with the graffiti ‘PUTIN-THIEF’, the painting of which was classified as ‘vandalism motivated by political hatred’, but also in the FSB report that they had arrested an ‘extremist group’.
The video made by the FSB and published by RIA Novosti is clearly staged. The activists in the video — Aleksei I., Mikhail Selitsky and Denis Fatkullin — are obviously reading a text written for them. Skripin is not in this video. He refused to read the text offered him. In his lawyers’ opinion, his refusal to confess to something he had not done was the reason he was the only one remanded in custody, in a complete absence of evidence of guilt.
Recognition of an individual as a victim of a politically motivated prosecution does not imply Memorial Human Rights Centre agrees with, or approves of, their views, statements, or actions.
More information about this case and the position of Memorial Human Rights Centre is available on our website.
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