Alexei Pichugin, former head of the internal economic security service of Yukos, sentenced to life, refuses to meet members of the POC, writes “Kommersant” with reference to an unnamed member of the commission.
Since July 2021, Pichugin has been held in the Moscow SIZO-2 Lefortovo, which is unofficially controlled by the FSB. Members of the POC have already tried four times to meet with Pichugin, who is recognized as a political prisoner, but to no avail. At first, the meeting was postponed due to coronavirus restrictions, then the SIZO staff denied it to the observers, referring to the decision of Pichugin himself.
When human rights activists managed to have a personal conversation with the convict through the cell door, he, not approaching the hole for passing food, shouted to them that he would not communicate, the source of Kommersant said.
During the last visit of the members of the PMC, a Lefortovo security guard gave them a written statement from Pichugin, in which he asked the SIZO administration to protect him from any contacts with public observers. Unofficially, the security guard said that, according to Pichugin, all members of the PMC are affiliated with journalists, and he does not intend to “distribute interviews for the media”.
An anonymous source close to the investigation of the Pichugin case told Kommersant that Pichugin was allegedly negotiating with the security forces at Lefortovo to pardon or commute the sentence.
Shortly after Pichugin’s transfer to Moscow from IK-6 “Black Dolphin” (Sol-Iletsk, Orenburg region), he abandoned his lawyers Ksenia Kostromina and Dmitry Kharitonov.
Pichugin was transported to Moscow “to conduct investigative measures.” Presumably, he is being forced to testify against the former head of Yukos, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, who has been accused in Russia since 2015 of organizing a number of murders and assassination attempts.
Khodorkovsky, after his release in 2013, has repeatedly spoken publicly for Pichugin to give any testimony in exchange for his release. “We don’t know if such talks are underway, we don’t know what’s going on with Alexei Pichugin,” Maxim Dbar, Khodorkovsky’s press secretary, told The Insider. – But Aleksey has been imprisoned for almost 19 years, he has already shown remarkable heroism and character. Khodorkovsky repeatedly urged Alexei to give any kind of testimony, if it is required of him to be released. This position has not changed.
In 2016, Pichugin was also taken to Lefortovo to testify against Khodorkovsky, but he refused to slander him, citing Article 51 of the Constitution. After 9 months, Pichugin was returned to the colony.
Alexey Pichugin was arrested in June 2003. In March 2005, he was sentenced to 20 years in a strict regime colony on charges of organizing the murder of Tambov businessmen Sergei and Olga Gorin. In August 2007, Pichugin received a life sentence in the second case. He was charged with organizing several more murders and attempts, including the 1998 murder of Nefteyugansk Mayor Vladimir Petukhov.
In 2012, the European Court of Human Rights recognized the trial against Pichugin as unfair and awarded him about €9,500 in moral damages. However, a year later, the Presidium of the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation refused to review the verdict.
In June 2017, the ECtHR recognized Pichugin’s persecution as unlawful and decided to pay him more than €15,000 as compensation for violating the right to a fair trial (paragraphs 1 and 2 of Article 6 of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms). The ECtHR also concluded that in the Pichugin case, the Russian courts assessed and admitted the evidence in such a way that there was an imbalance between the defense and the prosecution.
Pichugin has asked for clemency three times since 2016, and each time his petitions were rejected.
The Memorial Human Rights Center and other human rights organizations consider Pichugin a political prisoner and a prisoner of conscience. Human rights activists point to the lack of evidence of his involvement in the crimes he is accused of.