Case of St. Petersburg’s "night governor"

Case of St. Petersburg’s "night governor"
Vladimir Barsukov Photo: TASS

On the second try the public prosecution managed to prove the involvement of Vladimir Barsukov-Kumarin in organizing the assassination attempt against the owner of the Petersburg Oil Terminal Sergey Vasilyev, which happened in 2006. In mid-May 2016, a trial jury found him guilty of the crime incriminated to him.

The judge objects!

As it had been predicted in the backstage, the first judicial process with Barsukov-Kumarin on charges of attempted assassination against Vasilyev began in the St. Petersburg City Court in 2013 with a scandal. The case was considered by judge Igor Masloboev. From the first minutes the case was examined at the court, an old dispute arose: who will judge the so-called underground governor -Moscow once again or St. Petersburg after all? The fact that it was a trial by jury only fueled the debate. The defendant chose specifically this type of judgement to prove his innocence. However, no one even thought of disregarding politics in this tricky situation. In turn, from the first minutes of the hearing, the defendant's lawyers, Konstantin Kuzmin and Sergey Afanasyev, were dead set on returning the case to the prosecutor to correct the procedural defects. But nothing came of it, because the main game took place outside the jurisdiction of the respected lawyers.

Our
notes

Judge Igor Masloboev is known for passing severe sentences upon Sergei Kirilchuk and his accomplices for murder of a member of the Investigative Committee at the Russian Prosecutor’s Office, Dmitry Marininov. He also presided over the so-called case of bailiffs and bankers, and acquitted six defendants on the basis of the jury's verdict. The defendants were accused of embezzling funds from current accounts of legal entities. In 2004, judge Masloboev became the first judge to hold a trial by jury in St. Petersburg after a 90-year recess.

The mystery around this case started to revolved from the very first session of the preliminary hearing. The defendant, Kumarin, was absent at those hearings. The investigators claimed he was so ill that it would have been impossible to transfer him to the court. They feared for his poor health condition. Afanasyev’s lawyer was sincerely surprised by this kind of sympathy from the prosecution side and publicly stated that at the time nothing prevented his client from attending the hearing. In this situation, judge Igor Masloboev was inconveniently consistent and declared that the hearing would begin only for the part that does not concern Vladimir Kumarin personally. The law clearly defines that every hearing should begin with the identification of the defendant, which can only occur if the person is present. The mystery kept growing. On the backstage, there were persistent rumors that neither the investigation nor the Prosecutor General's Office would allow Kumarin to be transferred to St. Petersburg.

However, the security forces did not take into account Masloboev’s adherence to principles. The experienced judge had a reputation of keen processualist in legal circles, and in the end he was adamant, ordering to escort of all the defendants by May 30, 2013.

Our
notes

The attack on the car of a businessman Sergey Vasilyev took place on May 5, 2006. The assailants blocked two cars of the trader - Chevrolet Tahoe and Rolls Royce - at the intersection of Levashovsky avenue and Ordinarnaya street. The guards were at the first car, while Vasilyev himself was at the wheel of the second car. The attackers shelled both cars with heavy fire from Kalashnikov rifles. Only by accident the businessman managed to survive - the bullet hit his cellphone at the exact moment when he was talking over it. The main blow fell upon the bodyguards. One of them died on the spot and three were wounded. One of them is now permanently disabled. Rumor has it that Kumarin demanded certain amount of money from Vasilyev for his contribution to the development of Vasilyev’s business. The trader refused, and that was why after some time an attempt was made on his life.

Nevertheless, Kumarin-Barsukov always flatly denied any involvement in the incident and did not admit his guilt.

Расстеленный автомобиль предпринимателя

Dancing with authorities

The tough stance taken by the judge Masloboev failed to bear any fruit. The defendants now had to regularly face a series of unfortunate events. By the beginning of the hearing, only Alexander Korpushov and Vyacheslav Drokov were delivered from Moscow. Vladimir Barsukov-Kumarin and Alexander Merkulov could not arrive at the court. Their paddy wagon suddenly broke down, just 800 meters from the railway station. To explain this, the Federal Penitentiary Service has sent an exciting report to the court, which named all the reasons for the tragic accident. However, a miracle did happen, when the paddy fixed itself and somehow brought the underground governor back to the Matrosskaya Tishina prison in the Russian capital. At the preliminary hearing, Kumarin had to participate remotely via a video conference call. The tensions had been rising until the state prosecution requested to have the hearing held in Moscow, despite the compelling stand of the court. Given the fact that the Prosecutor General’s Office intended to later support the prosecution in this case, the request sent a clear and distinct message. Kumarin’s defenders were confident that the Investigative Committee was ready to take great pains, if only to prevent the outcome when the notorious Petersburg’s gangster returns to the banks of the Neva. To make the orchestrated play "All roads lead to Moscow City" happen still, the lawyers were forbidden to talk to journalists about the dramatic events in the St. Petersburg court. The resolution based on the results of the preliminary hearing was extremely innovative - the jury was to be selected in St. Petersburg and then taken to Moscow.

It took St. Petersburg City Court six months to hold 7 jury selection sessions. By November 2013, a panel for the hearing of this cause celebre was finally formed. And only by December the Moscow City Court approved 24 jurors (12 primary and 12 alternates. Additionally, the case was now examined by the judge Irina Tumanova. Although the law allows for different judges at a stage of preliminary hearings and judicial investigation itself respectively, there were persistent rumors that Igor Masloboev was dismissed from the process for his adamant stance. Allegedly, his transfer from the court of the first instance to the court of appeal is directly connected with his role in the Kumarin’s case.

 Our
notes

Judge Irina Tumanova reviewed the case of Valery Burykina and the gang of "medics." During that process, she was hit by a car, and taken to the hospital. Irina Tumanova also examined the case of the murder of anti-fascist Timur Kacharava and the case of Sergey Egorov and Maksim Ponomarev, who killed cash couriers and were better known as "bandits with a baby stroller."

In 2014, Kumarin’s trial finally started in Moscow City Court with fanfare. At the first meeting the courtroom crammed with press. The hearings took place once a week. Every week, the jurors, the judge and her assistant and secretary, were brought to the capital, supervised by the state protection and bailiffs, placed in a hotel, and then transferred to the courtroom. According to some estimates, each of those trips, cost the state 800 thousand rubles.

It’s a merry-go-round all the way

The state prosecutor from the General Prosecutor's Office Irina Shlyaeva and a young, but skilled prosecutor Nadezhda Mareenskaya from St. Petersburg had a real tough stance. Judge Irina Tumanova also held the hearing with the utmost control over the situation. However, despite all of that, the jury did not listen to the arguments of the investigation.

The process, which promised to yield a guilty verdict, in the end failed to deliver it. The jurors voted 8 to 4, thus acquitting the underground governor of St. Petersburg and stating that Kumarin was not guilty in the attempted assassination against Vasilyev in 2006. This was a low below the belt for the entire law enforcement system. The protection of the defendant rejoiced, newspapers and magazines were full of galling headlines. In his last words, Kumarin himself sarcastically called this process “a special kind of justice.”

At the same time, the principal offenders and their accomplices were already sentenced.

Our
notes

The testimony of Vladimir Kumarin-Barsukov’s involvement in an attempted murder of businessman Vasilyev was provided by the Mikhalev brothers - Andrey and Oleg, who signed a pre-trial agreement with the investigation in 2012. Given the time of prejudice, their testimony that Barsukov allegedly instructed to destroy not only Vasilyev, but all of his guards, formed the basis for the charges. Andrey Mikhalev received 20 years in prison, while his brother got 18 years and 6 months. The sentences were imposed by the St. Petersburg City Court. The driver Alexey Ignatov, who received a court sentence of 7 years in prison, also provided confessionary statements. In 2010, another accomplice received 3 years of probation for confession and cooperation with the investigation, a retired Special Forces officer Alexander Yurtsev. Other accomplices in fact got off cheaply. In 2011, the Moscow District Court of St. Petersburg found 3 St. Petersburg’s residents guilty of illegal possession and transfer of the weapons that had served as crime instruments - Vladimir Patapov, Igor Chistyukhin, and Valery Kozin. All of them also provided honest confessions at the court and received suspended sentences.

Still, the main process was lost. Prosecutors Shlyaeva and Mareenskaya accused the lawyers of the defendant, the judge and journalists of their failure. In their appeal submission to the Supreme Court, the public prosecutors wrote that the judge had failed to adopt all the "required measures to participants in the process," mentioned that the lawyers had allowed themselves to disclose the details of the process to the press, which had misled the jury, and the media had given Kumarin an opportunity to speak about the process. It remains a mystery if the Supreme Court found any procedural violations in this case, apart from a number of media articles, which were regarded as "embracery." Nevertheless, the Supreme Court considered it necessary to revoke the scandalous verdict and order a new trial with a different composition of the court.

In January 2015, the case once again arrived to the St. Petersburg City Court. This time a new judge was appointed to review it – Galina Ponomaryova, who is well-known for pronouncing harsh sentences.

Our
notes

Judge Galina Ponomaryova is known for sentencing Sergey Zaripov, the leader of the band that followed in the footsteps of another kingpin Yuri Shutov, to life imprisonment. Ponomaryova also brought a harsh verdict upon the leader of the "gang of medics" Valery Burykin (in 2005, three episodes from the gang’s illegal activity were isolated in a separate case). She also conducted a preliminary hearing on the murder of prominent Russian journalist Galina Starovoitova.

After a few attempts, the jurors were re-selected once again, and the court’s visiting sessions in Moscow resumed. By March 2016, the story of the assassination attempt against businessman Vasilyev had been going on for 10 years already. In May 2016, a new board of jurors from St. Petersburg found Vladimir Barsukov-Kumarin guilty and unworthy of mercy, voting 9 to 3 in favor of the prosecution. Still, some rumors imply that nobody expected this kind of verdict until the very end. After all, the case proved to be too controversial and difficult. It would remain a mystery what exactly convinced the lay judges this time. The former underground governor of St. Petersburg will be sentenced in July. Meanwhile, out of the blue the court has obtained the testimony of the former lawmaker Glushchenko, who explicitly accused Barsukov-Kumarin of staging the murder of Galina Starovoitova. We will have to live and see if there are going to be new developments in the case against Barsukov-Kumarin.

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