“We shall overcome some day”. Evgeny Urlashov is to continue his fight
The guilty verdict was announced 3 years after the criminal case initiation. Urlashov was the Mayor of Yaroslavl a little longer than a year. Still, he managed to make the authorities really angry. Therefore, many people consider this case a political one.
The former Yaroslavl Mayor was sentenced to 12.5 years behind bars and fine of 60 million rubles. The Kirovsky District Court of Yaroslavl found him guilty of accepting a bribe of 17 million rubles and attempted accepting a bribe on especially large scale. His counselor Aleksey Lopatin was found guilty of mediation in bribery and sentenced to 7 years in a maximum security penal colony. The Deputy Mayor Dmitry Donskov was acquitted by the court.
The defense for Urlashov has already announced its intention to appeal the court decision. Urlashov insists that the case against him was framed-up and there are political motifs behind it.
Evgeny Urlashov was elected the Yaroslavl Mayor on April 1, 2012. The independent Municipal Deputy gained 69.65% of votes in the second round of election – almost 2.5 times more than his competitor Yakov Yakushev, a businessman, protégé of the Governor, and member of Edinaya Rossia (the United Russia) Party. The whole opposition block supported Urlashov, who also used to be a member of Edinaya Rossia since 2008, but resigned in 2011.
In July 2013, after staying a little longer than a year on this post, the official was arrested late in the night, when we was returning from a meeting.
This happened a few days after a mass protest Against swindlers and thieves, rallied by Urlashov in front of the Governor’s office and supported by such opposition parties as Spravedlivaya Rossia (the Fair Russia), the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (CPRF) and Grazhdanskaya Platforma (the Civic Platform). During the rally, Urlashov said that he is ready to run for the Yaroslavl Governor’s seat – should such an election be ever carried-out. In addition, Urlashov has criticized the Regional Governor Sergey Yastrebov (voluntarily resigned on July 28, 2016). Since the very beginning, Urlashov has been stating that there are political games behind his detention.
In 2013 44.5% of Yaroslavl residents stated that their attitude towards the Mayor has improves since his arrest – while only 8% were thinking of him worse than a year ago. 79% Yaroslavl residents assessed positively the performance of Urlashov, while only 19% were giving positive marks to his main rival – the Governor Sergey Yastrebov.
The Investigative Committee has found that the mayor had demanded a bribe of 18 million rubles from Sergey Shmelev, the Director of Radostroy construction company. This company used to repair roads in Yaroslavl, and the official threatened not to pay for works performed under the municipal contract. Another bribe of 17 million rubles was allegedly demanded via intermediaries from Eduard Avdalyan, the Principal General of Yardostroy construction company, for lobbying of decision to transfer some municipal assets and the control stock of Municipal Road Administration Federal State Unitary Enterprise.
“I had never accepted poorly cleaned and poorly repaired roads. I promised to fight with this and I was fighting,” – the detained Mayor said.
Urlashov was charged under part 3 of Article 30 and part 6 of Article 209 (Attempted Bribe-Taking by a group of persons by previous concert on a large scale) and item (c) of part 5 of Article 209 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (Bribe-Taking on an especially large scale). It took the investigation more than 2 years to gather the required evidence.
Many famous politicians supported Urlashov, including Boris Nemtsov and Mikhail Prokhorov. Prokhorov offered his apartment as a surety to release Urlashov under home arrest. In November 2013, at a meeting with Vladimir Putin, Prokhorov asked the President to intervene into the situation with the detention of Urlashov.
Putin promised to “definitely look what’s going on there”.
The court hearings started only on September 28, 2015. Some court sessions have been held behind closed doors, some 100 witnesses questioned, Urlashov announced hunger strikes.
A day before his arrest in 2013, Dmitry Donskov, the Deputy Mayor acquitted by the court, testified against Urlashov. He told that a 6% kickback was requested from Shmelev in exchange for awarding a one-year city cleaning contract. After his arrest, Donskov recanted this statement and said that this was a sponsorship aid for Grazhdanskaya Platforma. Another suspect in the Urlashov case – Maksim Poykalaynen, the Director of the Agency for Housing and Public Utilities Municipal Orders Municipal Budgetary Institution of the Yaroslavl City Hall – has admitted his guilt and made a deal with the investigation. He was sentenced to 5 years behind bars.
After the end of the investigation, more than 1.2 thousand audio records appeared in the case file – these records had neither been examined before, nor presented in court. Sergey Golubenkov, the defense attorney for Evgeny Urlashov, has concluded that only some sparse fragments from the total pool of available audio records – the ones that allowed to create an impression of bribe-taking – had been used to initiate the criminal case.
“And of course, extensive audio records where police officers and their assistants discuss who and how shall set up the situation, how to engage the Mayor and his close circle – appointed to be bribe extorters – into this situation, how to manufacture evidence of bribe transfer to the intermediary – all these records have not been included into the case file,” – the defense attorney explained.
In April 2016 the Directorate of the Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation (the FSB) asked to include into the case file 20 new audio records of Urlashov’s telephone conversations recorded since June 30, 2012 and until his arrest on July 3, 2013. During the investigation, these records were classified. The defense has expressed indignation and stated that these records can’t be presented in court because they require expert assessment.
The General Prosecutor’s Office asked to sentence Urlashov to 15 years in a maximum security penal colony and fine of 500 million rubles. In his final statement, the former Mayor has denied any guilt again.
“This is a political process, – Urlashov said. – I hope that the court takes into account my arguments and arguments of my defense. I haven’t committed a crime and I plead not guilty”.
After the sentence pronouncement, Urlashov said: “We shall overcome some day”. He is the last Yaroslavl Mayor elected by the public: according to a decision of Municipal Deputies, popular elections of the mayor have been replaced with an interior voting by the municipal administration.
Saburova believes that the Russian authorities violated articles 2 and 5 of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, guaranteeing the right to life, as well as the right to freedom and personal inviolability.