In December 2016, the Team 29 named six women tried for high treason in Krasnodar since 2013. One of them, Oksana Sevastidi, is now released. After release, she told a story of Annik Kesyan.
A 60-year-old housewife is imprisoned for eight years for a SMS message about military equipment moving openly. Case of women sentenced for SMS are very similar. Here we tell how they made Kesyan and another so-called high traitors to admit themselves guilty of high treason and why nobody has heard anything about these women up to recent times.
«What high treason? She made dumplings»
In April 2008, Oksana Sevastidi received a SMS from a Georgian acquaintance of hers who asked: «Are there tanks standing at a platform there at yours?» She replied: «They were but today I don’t know». In 2015, she was arrested and sentenced for seven years of penal colony. Court hearings were closed.
People learnt about Sevastidi after publications on her story and the question journalists asked Vladimir Putin at his press conference. Oksana has been pardoned and her legal attorneys, Ivan Pavlov and Evgeny Smirnov, achieved reduction of her imprisonment term up to three years.
Pavlov thinks that Sevastidi’s case can impact fates of other people sentenced in similar cases: «These cases are very similar: same names of prosecutors, investigators, judges. same witnesses, and same sentences looking as if they are copied. We have now entered the case of Annik Kesyan. We know about two more women serving sentences for the same crimes».
After the appeal, Oksana told journalists about Annik Kesyan sentenced to 8 years of imprisonment by the same judge as Sevastidi herself (Kobzev his surname is). Kesyan is serving her sentence in Mordovia.
Annik Kasyan was born in Adler. At 19, she got married and followed her husband to Gagra. In 1992, when Georgian-Abkhazian military conflict started, the family came back to Russia. Annik’s daughter, Violetta, married a man living in Georgia so that her mother often visited her there. In Adler, Kesyan worked as a clothes saleswoman at a market and then became a housewife. Her daughter Violetta Revazova is exasperated: «She made home dumplings with meat and without it. She had her own clients, they are still waiting for her return and for her convenience food. What high treason? What are they speaking of?!»
On August 8-12, 2008, a military conflict with Russian and Georgian participation took place in South Ossetia and Abkhazia. According to the Russian side, their troops entered the region in order to defend the public and peacemakers there. After a five-day war, Russia recognized Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent states so that diplomatic relations between Moscow and Tbilisi were broken off.
As for Annik Kesyan, she met Mamuka Lukava at the Abkhazian-Georgian border and later he became a friend of the Kesyan family. She congratulated him on his birthdays and even helped to find his first love who appeared to live in Krasnodar. In April 2008, Mamuka asked Annik in a SMS whether tanks were moving in Sochi and she replied: «Yes, they are moving».
On April 27-30, 2008, many people in Sochi saw troop trains with military equipment moving along the railway towards Abkhazia. How could Annik suppose that military equipment moved quite openly, without any masking, can be a state secret? Six calm years later, she long ago forgotten everything about this SMS dialog.
«Knowing only how to sweep railway carriages, she is sentenced for espionage»
Sevastidi’s and Kesyan’s stories are rather similar. Also, both of them looks like the one of Ekaterina Kharebava, the first convicted woman whose case of that kind became known.
On April 30, 2008, seeing military equipment at a railway in Sochi, Kharebava sent a SMS about that to an acquaintance in Georgia. She was arrested for that in 2013 and sentenced to six years of penal colony for espionage since she was a Georgian citizen. The sentence was issued by Judge Vladimir Kobzev who tried most of «high traitors» in Krasnodar.
Kharebava considers herself not guilty. Her attorney, Leonid Yerchenko, told the Team 29 that when he had entered the case Ekaterina had already signed a confession of espionage. The investigator and the defending attorney assigned by the state advised her to sign it, promising that the imprisonment term would be shorter then. «She was telling everything without concealing anything, seeing no danger in that, while they [the FSB] at that moment were already collecting material to initiate a criminal case».
In the pre-trial detention center, Kharebava heard of another woman, Marina Dzhandzhgava, also convicted for a SMS. They have not been familiar with each other but Kharebava knew that Dzhandzhgava was a witness in her case. In the case of Dzhandzhgava, in its turn, there is Kharebava’s witness. Both those women communicated with Gocha Chkhetia the FSB believed to be an agent of Georgian security bodies. Dzhandzhgava met Chkhetia when visiting Georgia, he was a relative of her father’s colleague. Kharebava and Chkhetia both lived in Gagra before the 1992 war and had common acquaintances there.
In Kharebava’s and Dzhandzhgava’s cases there is one more common witness, a certain A.V. Deriglazova, twice convicted for organization of unlawful border crossing. According to Kharebava’s attorney, that woman was not connected with Georgian intelligence bodies but she confirmed that Chkhetia was an agent of Georgian security bodies. The prosecution used that as evidence. Neither Ekaterina Kharebava nor Marina Dzhandzhgava have been familiar with Deriglazova.
Dzhandzhgava worked as a porter in the Adler passenger railway carhouse. Her mother says Marina worked at the railway for 25 years. The story is rather common: their family moved to Adler from Abkhazia due to the war. Later, they often came to Abkhazia where Marina’s daughter and husband are buried, having died in a car accident. In their SMS dialog with Chkhetia, Marina replied his question on movement of a troop train.
Soso Gabunia, a friend of Dzhandzhgava’s father, says that passenger cars were joined to train troops and Marina worked in such a passenger car. In his opinion, troop trains were no secret for anyone living in Adler then: «Russian troop trains moved openly to Abkhazia, I saw them many times myself. They were even put in our carhouse to be repaired and filled with water. Have we no right to see what is there near us, then? Marina knew only how to sheep a car, and now she is sentenced for espionage».
«He slapped me in the face and said: recall what you know and what you don’t»
Neither Annik Kesyan nor her daughter Violetta knew that their Georgian friend worked for intelligence bodies. The only evidence of his connection with intelligence is a certification issued by Abkhazian security bodies. In the opinion of Ivan Pavlov, it is at least precipitate to trust fully in such a certification issued by security bodies of a party in a military conflict.
Six years after that fatal SMS dialog, in September 2013, Kesyan was summoned to the FSB. She visited two questionings, not fully understanding what interest could security bodies have in her. On February 26, 2014, at 5 a.m., they came to Kesyan’s home, searched it, withdrew all computer equipment, questioned her family, and made the woman go with them.
Kesyan’s daughter recalls that morning: «I asked the officers who came to our home whether she would come back. One of them replied that she would if she admitted nothing». But Annik did not come back home. In the Krasnodar pre-trial detention center, a FSB officer slapped her in the face and said» «Recall what you know and what you don’t».
The investigation on Kesyan’s case lasted for a year and a half. The investigator was Roman Troyan who investigated also the cases of Sevastidi, Kharebava, Dzhandzhgava, and that of Petr Parpulov, an aged dispatcher in an airport. Troyan insisted that Kesyan should not invite an attorney by herself.
An attorney assigned by state represented Kesyan in court. She admitted her guilt of high treason within the questionings. There was no appeal trying to contest the sentence of to reduce the imprisonment term. They state attorney told Violetta Revazova that «it was senseless to file [an appeal], people sentenced within such articles will never be released, we should be glad that they did not give twelve years to her». Violetta’s mother told her that. when asked in court whether she understood that she had abused the law, the attorney nodded, hinting her to agree. In her sentence, the woman suddenly found that she had allegedly mentioned the number of tanks in her SMS when she had not been able to know how many of them had been there.
Kesyan was sent to serve her sentence to Mordovia. There, she is treated not badly. She works in a medical unit. According to her daughter’s words, her mother gets no salary but at least she has an occupation.
«She did all of that because of fear and only of fear. We told nobody about that, also because of fear, We began to recover only now. She still phones [from the penal colony] and says she is fine there. I tell her: please complain for anything! She suffered from a number of diseases here at home, how should she feel there?», Kesyan’s daughter says.
On February 26, 2017, three years passed after Annik Kesyan’s detention. Having learnt about Oksana Sevastidi’s case, Violetta Revazova applied to the Team 29. At the nearest time, Ivan Pavlov will visit Kesyan in the penal colony as her new attorney. She is much eager to met the attorney and to talk with him. Her daughter says that mother has not given up.
«I have written high and low but nothing has reached our President»
Tamara Dzhandzhgava, Marina’s mother, knew that her daughter communicated with a Georgian acquaintance but they both did not attached any significance to that. Marina was accused for two SMSs sent in the end of April 2008. She was arrested in 2012, earlier than other women we are speaking of.
Tamara says: «They came on October 2, 2012, on four GAZelle minivans, all of them masked and with assault rifles as if they were hunting some hard core criminal. They began to check all rooms: hers, mine, and my son’s. Found nothing but took her with them at any rate. Said they would return her in the evening, and she is not home up to now. She was tried and accused of devil know what».
The mother, 79, now comes from Sochi to the penal colony to see her daughter once in four months.
«She says to me: Mom, I was to say yes, there is no truth, Mom, no one can find it. She says that Troyan (Roman Troyan, the investigator in charge also of Kesyan’s, Sevastidi’s, Kharebava’s, and Petr Parpulov’s cases. – Eds.) threatened her and made to sign the confession. And she says she decided then: damn this, I will sit in prison, husband and daughter are dead. She is lonely at her 59, I am already 79. I am her old mother, and I go to visit her», the woman says.
After the search of her home, Marina was taken to the pre-trial detention center and accused of transferring information to an agent of Georgian intelligence. «Had she any interest in those troop trains in 2008 after she had seen the war in Abkhazia? She is rather ill, her thyroid underwent a surgery, her heart is weak, but they gave me no certification of her health. My son went to Sochi where was a registrant but they said that the head physician was warned not to give any information about Marina. I have written high and low but nothing has reached our President».
On October 2, five years will pass since Marina Dzhandzhgava’s detention. According to her mother, neighbors are astonished that Marina «was made a spy»: «She never harmed anyone, she worked, she has a certification from a flashpoint. She worked everywhere, even in Grozny, in Chechnya, she was porter in trains for soldiers». On November 1, 2013. Judge Vladimir Kobzev, the same one who convicted Kesyan, Kharebava, and Sevastidi, sentenced Marina Dzhandzhgava to 12 years of penal colony for high treason.
«The investigation asks not to tell anybody about the case»
In the female penal colony #1 in Vologda, Inga Tutisani, one more woman from Sochi, serves her sentence. She and Ekaterina Kharebava were cellmates in the pre-trial detention center. Inga also was convicted for high treason for sending a SMS to a Georgian friend.
According to Kharebava, Tutisani is convicted for a SMS sent already after the Georgian-Russian conflict, in 2009. Tutisani’s daughter, Diana, confirms that her mother’s case is similar to those of Kharebava and Sevastidi but says that she herself knows no details since she lives in Georgia: «They have not informed me on the case and tell me nothing though I wish her case to be re-examined».
Tutisani was sentenced in July 2014 by Judge Alexey Ivanov who also sentenced Petr Parpulov two years later. Like other people sentenced by the Krasnodar Territorial Court in similar cases, Tutisani has filed no appeal. The precedent with Sevastidi when missed appealing terms were restored may help other women to achieve re-examination of their cases.
Ivan Pavlov, Sevastidi’s attorney, comments the result of her case: «In all cases of high treason in the Krasnodar Territory we know of, the investigation each time asks the suspects of high treason or espionage not to tell anybody on their cases, not to look for a legal attorney, and not to contact journalists. They promise that the case will be solved easily and the punishment term will be small but it appears otherwise. The case of Oksana Sevastidi is a bright example of lawlessness taking place under the secrecy curtain, far from public control».
Nine years later
Ekaterina Kharebava was released in 2016 within the Russian-Georgian agreement on mutual release of citizens. Together with her attorney, her daughter applied to Georgian authorities, making them to pay attention to her mother’s fate. Kharebava told the Team 29 that together with her, Russian authorities released two more Georgian citizens convicted for espionage.
One of them, says Kharebava, was a woman, her cellmate in the Krasnodar pre-trial detention center #5. According to Mikhail Savva, ex-member of the Krasnodar territorial public monitoring committee, that facility is subordinate directly to the FSB and practically all people convicted for high treason in Krasnodar Territory were waiting for their sentences there.
Kharebava mentioned no name but said that the woman freed together with her had been detained at the same time she herself had been and convicted in July 2014. This may be Manana Kapanadze whose case was transferred to the Krasnodar Territorial Court on May 13, 2014, at the same time with Sevastidi’s case. She was sentenced on July 21, 2014. As Kharebava says, that woman’s case was also caused by a SMS sent to a friend to Georgia. After their release, both women left to Tbilisi.
In 2016, Russia released three Georgian citizens convicted for espionage in favor of Georgia. One of them was Ekaterina Kharebava but other names were not pronounced. Some time before, Georgia pardoned four Russian citizens convicted for espionage. The agreement was achieved by Zurab Abashidze, Georgian Prime Minister’s Special Representative for settling relations with the Russian Federation, and Grigory Karasin, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs in Russia. The foreign ministries of Georgia and Russia do not disclosed names of the released persons.
Kharebava was not familiar with the third released woman who stayed in Moscow. Ekaterina knows only that her imprisonment term was 8.5 years. We suppose that could be Irina Alieva convicted in Rostov-on-Don in 2011 together with her son, David Aliev.
Annik Kesyan, Marina Dzhandzhgava, and Inga Tutisani serve in penal colonies their sentences for SMSs sent to friends. Oksana Sevastidi returned home to Sochi, pardoned by the President though found once more guilty by the Supreme Court of Russia that however reduced her punishment term from seven to three years. How could a saleswoman, a housewife, or a porter of a passenger railway car, having no access to any secret documents, disclose any state secret? This remains unclear. According to Ivan Pavlov who specializes in high treason cases, unmasked troop trains cannot comprise state secret: instead, those who had not masked them should have been brought to liability.
Vladimir Kobzev who issued at least seven sentences in case of high treason and espionage in Krasnodar Territory is still a judge of the Krasnodar Territorial Court. Roman Troyan became. Leonid Korzhinek who was state prosecutor in the cases of Kharebava, Dzhandzhgava, and Sevastidi, became Deputy Prosecutor General of the Russian Federation in 2016.
Since 2010 up to mid-2016, 87 persons were convicted within the Criminal Code Articles 275 and 276 – 13 of them in the first half of 2016. The last known sentence related to 2008 events was issued in March 2016 but we suppose that not all cases against «Georgian spies» are completed up to now. After the five days of war, a spy fever wave is lasting for nine years now.
Author: Katya Arenina
The Team 29 is crowd-funding for people’s lawyer who will help victims of the state machinery and tell how to defend one’s rights. Your support will be an input to the struggle with the heavy-footed Leviathan in order to make him work for you.