A district court in Yekaterinburg decided to release the
leader of the Sverdlovsk branch of YABLOKO Maxim Petlin under
the bail of deputies of the regional parliament and the city
parliament. The state prosecutor demanded to apply such preventive
measure as imprisonment of Petlin before the trial.
Chairman of the YABLOKO party Sergei Mitrokhin also sent
his letter to the court so that Petlin could be released under
bail, but the judge refused the motion stating that the letter
was sent by fax.
Maxim Petlin, leader of YABLOKO’s branch in the Sverdlovsk
region was arrested on February 22 on suspicion of gouging
3 million rubles out of construction company the Forum Group.
The construction company had planned to build a shopping
center on the territory of a public garden in Yekaterinburg.
The Mayor’s office gave a permit to cut down over 1,100 trees
in the garden, however, local residents and Maxim Petlin opposed
this decision and even stopped cutting of the trees. After
that representatives of the developer offered to sign an agreement
with the residents promising to stop cutting and launch a
public discussion of the project. Maxim Petlin, in his turn,
undertook to suspend all public actions during the negotiations.
The agreement was signed on February 22, and Petlin had to
give to the developer the copies of his complaints to the
Andrei Panteleyev, Petlin’s ex-assistant and activist of
the initiative group brought the documents to the office so
that to hand them to the developer. The representative of
the developer, in his turn, handed Panteleyev package saying
that it contained documents for the deputy of the Sverdlovsk
Duma Mr. Petlin. When the package was in the hands of Panteleyev,
FSB (Federal Security Service, the former KGB) entered and
detained him saying that the package contained money allegedly
given to Petlin as a bribe. The package was opened and it
really contained money marked by special powder.
After this Panteleyev had an asthmatic attack and was taken
to hospital. However, the investigators ordered to take him
to the interrogation in handcuffs right out of the hospital
ward. “The investigators lacked the evidence and they decided
to “take them out” of a person who was in a very bad physical
condition,” said Sergei Mitrokhin.
However, today the Regional Prosecutor's Office announced
the results of its audit of the Forum Group held at Petlin’s
request. The verdict stated that cutting of the garden was
illegal. Public Prosecutor of Ekaterinburg has already appealed
to the district court to so that to recognize the decision
by the Head of Yekaterinburg Administration void.
However, Petlin’s flat was searched and his computer and
documents referring to the Forum Group were confiscated by
Maxim Petlin speaking in the court pleaded not guilty. "I
think this is a political provocation by the Forum Group.
I am very interested in a thorough investigation of this case
and so that all the charges could be taken from me. I'm not
going to hide and do not intend to exert pressure on the investigation
and trial. I did not threaten and do not intend to threaten
members of the Forum Group. I have no authority to exert pressure
on the investigators. I have a social and political experience.
People know me well, and I value their trust... My honor is
dearer to me," he told the reporters.
Mitrokhin called this case “a FSB provocation” and accused
FSB in corruption.
“Maxim Petlin would never make such a suicidal step for a
politician, moreover a politician from the opposition. We
are stating that absolutely any citizen can be arrested on
the same pretext. We are stating that such an action against
Petlin means an attack against Sverdlovsk YABLOKO – the main
oppositional force in the region which has been in tough confrontation
with the authorities,” runs YABLOKO’s statement.
Regional elections will take place in Yelaterinburg in March.
YABLOKO’s candidate Irina Skachkova was withdrawn from the
race under a pretext of “fraudulent signatures” in favour
of the candidate. The court declined her suit despite of the
face the eleven witnesses confirmed their disputed signatures
The present action against Petlin continues the line of reprisals
set by the authorities against YABLOKO’s activists.