26 Sep 2019 22:02

St. Petersburg court releases opposition activist Ivankin arrested for protest action in cemetery

ST. PETERSBURG. Sept 26 (Interfax) - St. Petersburg's Vasileostrovsky District Court on Wednesday dismissed the coroner's motion and released member of the opposition movement Agit Rossiya Pavel Ivankin, whom police suspected of desecrating graves while staging protest action in a cemetery.

Ivankin was released in courtroom, an Interfax correspondent reported.

In releasing him, the judge cited shortage of evidence presented by the prosecution.

From the beginning of the court hearing, Ivankin's defense attorney insisted that his detention was unjustifiable, saying that Ivankin was suspected baselessly and his arrest had no grounds whatsoever.

"No new evidence of [Ivankin's involvement in the suspected crime] has been presented today. The video record specified by the inquiry officer [the investigation's main evidence: it was said to show Ivankin sticking photos onto gravestones] has not been presented," attorney Mark Alekseyev said.

The defense also told the court that Ivankin has an alibi. "At the time of the crime, he was in his home. There is a witness," Alekseyev said, petitioning the court for Ivankin's release.

The case of desecration of graves was opened last Friday after opposition supporters staged a protest action at the Smolenskoye Lutheran Cemetery, where some activists used gravestones to place photos of acting public officials, political figures, entrepreneurs, propagandists, and artists who openly support the Russian authorities.

The inquiry officer believed that the organizers of the action used real gravestones for an "act of hooliganism," desecrating the graves.

According to police information, Ivankin was the act's organizer. Another two Agit Rossiya members, Grigory Kudryavtsev and Andrei Zheksimbayev, are currently being treated as witnesses in the case. The opposition organization's Telegram account was the first to report the action, called What the People Really Want, citing "unknown performers who have sent photos they took at the cemetery." Ivankin is an editor of the content posted on the Telegram account.

An informed source told Interfax earlier that during a search at the residence of one of the activists, police seized items allegedly proving their involvement in the act. The source also said that the investigation had a video recorded by CCTV cameras featuring Ivankin fixing a photograph onto a gravestone.

Agit Rossiya denies any involvement in the action. On Monday, it posted a statement on Telegram to describe the case as "an attempt to discredit" the movement and a pretext for "an arbitrary criminal prosecution" of its members.

The Smolenskoye Lutheran Cemetery was set up in 1747. It is the oldest burial place in St. Petersburg and a recognized monument of landscape architecture. Gravestones there are protected by state.