Announcers of storm from Chaika. St. Petersburg Prosecutor is on borrowed time
The most wide-scaled inspection of the Russian Prosecutor’s General Office in 20 years under the leadership of Deputy Prosecutor General Viktor Grin is taking place in the northern capital. Its ultimate and unique goal is dismissing Prosecutor of St. Petersburg Sergey Litvinenko. According to a CrimeRussia’s source, the matter is settled at the higher level; all that is left to do is giving factual basis to it.
Sapsan with Prosecutors
September 21, district Prosecutor's Offices of St. Petersburg were crawling with people from Moscow. At least 30 high-ranked officials of the Prosecutor’s General Office arrived by express train, and simultaneously started inspecting Vasileostrovskaya, Petrogradskaya and Krasnogvardeyskaya district Prosecutor’s Offices, and then the remaining fifteen offices.
The inspection of St. Petersburg supervisory authorities was initiated by Yury Chaika himself on September 15. Team of Moscow officials are interested in virtually all aspects of St. Petersburg colleagues’ work; case materials devoted to housing and communal affairs, environment, drug trafficking, and terrorism are requested by the prosecutors. According to St. Petersburg media, inspectors pay special attention to analyzing the validity of refusals to institute proceedings.
To convince St. Petersburg colleagues this is serious business, September 23 the Prosecutor’s General Office called a seven-day work schedule through a special order for all employees at city and district prosecutor’s offices of the Neva River city. They were, however, undisturbed by the changes, as they have been working without holidays for the past two months, getting ready for the inspection (rumors about inspectors usually spread well before their arrival).
Photo: Viktor Grin, the First-Class State Counselor of Justice, brought inspectors to St. Petersburg
The work has been humming since the first day of the Commission’s arrival not only in the Prosecutor's Office of St. Petersburg, but also in other law enforcement agencies; the Commission had identified priority points to be inspected in all of them.
For example, at the MIA Head office, inspectors have paid close attention to the search unit, where data on missing people makes up the majority of materials. According to a source in law enforcement agencies, a large number of criminal cases under Attempted Murder may be initiated using those materials. Inspection at Kresty pre-trial detention center (SIZO), SIZO-4, and SIZO-5 at the Office of the Federal Penitentiary Service is well under way; in addition to familiarizing with the documents, inspectors check prison conditions. It is possible that the inspection will also affect the Investigative Committee, although everyone knows the inspectors’ main target.
Dark cloud settling over the city
None of the officials directly communicates with St. Petersburg Prosecutor Sergey Litvinenko, Fontanka.ru reports. Head of the Commission of Prosecutor’s General Office Viktor Grin usually pays short visits to Russia’s northern capital. September 21, he personally brought more than thirty subordinates to St. Petersburg, putting two generals (Aleksey Pukhov and Rafael Bagaviev) in charge. Another visit is set for October 3.
Curators and their team avoid meetings with Litvinenko, although, according to a source in the Prosecutor General’s Office, personal contact with the head of the institution, where complex inspection is conducted, is not mandatory for inspectors.
Nevertheless, inspectors pay sufficient attention to the rest of the city and district prosecutor’s offices employees, tightly cooperating with them on hundreds of requested cases.
According to the CrimeRussia’s source, refusal cases and official reasons for refusals are investigated with unwavering passion. In most cases, the source says, the inspectors insist on their immediate re-initiation. Verdicts in high-profile criminal cases, where city prosecutor’s office presented the public prosecution, are audited as fervently. The Commission is primarily interested in the statistics of verdicts upheld by the Supreme Court, and the verdicts remanded for a new hearing. The correctness of documents for the last three years is checked all the way up to stamps and commas.
According to law enforcement agencies of St. Petersburg, there is a grave atmosphere at the district prosecutor’s offices and the head office. Employees rarely talk to each other, exchanging a few words in the smoking lounge. One can see their point – no one yet knows which of the prosecutors will lose their positions apart from Litvinenko. In district MIA departments, officers prefer not to stay late to avoid stumbling into Moscow inspectors.
Yury Chaika’s envoys are interested in the smallest details of St. Petersburg supervisory authority and its leader’s activities. According to the Prosecutor’s Office, inspectors have even held several meetings with government officials and heads of the city administration in a number of St. Petersburg districts for this purpose.
Fontanka.ru’s sources believe that the Deputy Prosecutor General Grin will receive the first summary information in the form of a report as early as October 3, whereas the conclusions reached on its basis by the Prosecutor General Yury Chaika will be ready by October 5. According to the CrimeRussia, the process may be delayed.
Especially since the inspection will last until 11 October. October 12, Sergey Litvinenko, his deputies, and heads of district administrations are expected for a return visit to Moscow, where the hearing of the inspection results is to be held. And they will not exactly feel welcome there.
Crown Prince and longtime rival
Photo: Yury Chaika, the Prosecutor General
Dialogue on the sidelines of the Prosecutor’s General Office explains the nature of the Prosecutor General’s relationship with his subordinate in St. Petersburg. The unspoken confrontation between Yury Chaika and Sergey Litvinenko began back in 2011.
When Litvinenko was appointed the Prosecutor of St. Petersburg after having served several years as the First Deputy of his predecessor Sergey Zaitsev, Yury Chaika did not support this. He recommended a different person for this position, namely Prosecutor of Karelia German Shtadler. However, when Zaitsev went to Moscow following his promotion, the vacant place was taken by Litvinenko.
According to sources at the Prosecutor’s General Office, his candidacy was lobbied by a number of St. Petersburg officials, with whom the prosecutor had long have an excellent relationship – over the decades of work in Prosecutor’s Offices of St. Petersburg, Litvinenko shrugged off dozens of criminal cases against the city officials of various ranks. There are unconfirmed reports that Governor 24 Dmitry Mikhalchenko, who is currently under investigation for smuggling, also had a hand in Litvinenko’s appointment.
In a time when Yury Chaika’s name was tarnished in any way, Sergey Litvinenko was summoned to Kremlin for a substantive talk. As a minimum, this happened twice. This appointments would not necessarily mean future assignment to a new position, except the St. Petersburg Prosecutor started behaving differently after these two visits to Moscow. And differently means not for the better, his subordinates say.
Taming of the shrew
In April this year, Sergey Litvinenko was given a clear hint at the fact he was about to lose his position as St. Petersburg prosecutor. The Prosecutor General Yury Chaika severely reprimanded him on the account of improper performance of official duties.
It could read between the lines of Chaika’s reprimand of the Second-Class State Counselor of Justice that there is too much breadth in Litvinenko’s behaviour. In particular, him interfering in the affairs of other Prosecutor’s Offices of the Russian Federation, whereas addressing such problems is in the competence of the Prosecutor’s General Office, not regional.
The story about Litvinenko’s illegal dismissal of request from the Prosecutor’s Office of the Magadan region as of August, for which he was reprimanded, is just the tip of it. The Prosecutor General’s Office is confident that Litvinenko had repeatedly ignored its orders in the past. Therefore, during the inspection, Moscow inspectors pay special attention to their St. Petersburg colleagues’ reaction to orders from the head office, and the quality of order execution.
St. Petersburg media tend to predict 50/50 outcome in Litvinenko’s inspection, whereas the CrimeRussia’s source notes that decision regarding Litvinenko has already been made and may not be appealed.
According to the same source, the main objective of the current inspection is forming a dossier of Sergey Litvinenko’s official violations expressed in disobedience to direct management. They will serve as a formal cause of St. Petersburg prosecutor’s dismissal.
The special services believe that Russian Interior Ministry officials could have cooperated with the press to sell passport applications and border-crossing data of the two men suspected of poisoning the Skripals in Salisbury.