Support The Moscow Times!

Biased Ruling In an Absurd Coup Attempt

The Moscow City Court on Friday sentenced Vladimir Kvachkov, 64, a former military intelligence officer and leader of a fringe nationalist organization, to 13 years in a high-security prison for plotting to overthrow the government.

According to the court ruling, Kvachkov planned to seize the military training center in Kovrov, a small town in the Vladimir region, and incite a rebellion in Vladimir, a city of 345,000 located 180 kilometers east of Moscow. Uprisings were also planned in Voronezh, Samara, Khabarovsk and Vladivostok. Following these rebellions, the prosecution said Kvachkov and his supporters planned to seize Moscow.

The plot sounds too ridiculous to believe. Indeed, the case against Kvachkov has generated little interest among Russians. What's more, despite the general Kremlin policy of stoking fears of enemies inside and outside the country, even state-controlled television did not try to play the Kvachkov plot to its advantage.

Perhaps this is because the evidence against him was so unconvincing. The charges of plotting a coup were filed the day after Kvachkov was acquitted in June 2008 on charges of attempting to assassinate then-Unified Energy System chief Anatoly Chubais. The investigation into Kvachkov in the insurrection case was classified and conducted with help from the Federal Security Service. Moreover, the only weapons the alleged plotters had at their disposal were crossbows. Even if the aging Kvachkov and his pensioner accomplices dreamed of leading a national rebellion, it was obvious they had no chance whatsoever of succeeding.

Or perhaps Russians are simply accustomed to the fact that the authorities like to exaggerate the charges against people whom they are determined to prosecute at all costs. In the end, it isn't really important whether former Yukos CEO Mikhail Khodorkovsky really stole huge amounts of oil or Pussy Riot violated nonexistent blasphemy laws. At the end of the day, the court had to report to its higher-ups. Perhaps this is the best explanation for the heavy sentence in the Kvachkov case.

The public's indifference to Kvachkov's eccentric case speaks volumes about the lack of a threat it actually posed to the public. Sentencing the 64-year-old Kvachkov to prison for 13 years is yet another blow to Russia's reputation.

This comment appeared as an editorial in Vedomosti.

The views expressed in opinion pieces do not necessarily reflect the position of The Moscow Times.

Read more

Independent journalism isn’t dead. You can help keep it alive.

As the only remaining independent, English-language news source reporting from Russia, The Moscow Times plays a critical role in connecting Russia to the world.

Editorial decisions are made entirely by journalists in our newsroom, who adhere to the highest ethical standards. We fearlessly cover issues that are often considered off-limits or taboo in Russia, from domestic violence and LGBT issues to the climate crisis and a secretive nuclear blast that exposed unknowing doctors to radiation.

As we approach the holiday season, please consider making a one-time donation — or better still a recurring donation — to The Moscow Times to help us continue producing vital, high-quality journalism about the world’s largest country.