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How was the trial in the “Sobchak case”: a split among the accused, merged negotiations and the collapse of hopes

Ksenia Sobchak.

Ksenia Sobchak.

A photo: Boris KUDRYAVOV

The details of the investigation of the “Sobchak case” about the extortion of 11 million rubles from the head of Rostec by the employees of the TV presenter are not devoted to the general public. However, the lawyers of the detainees – Ksenia’s personal assistant Kirill Sukhanov and ex-editor-in-chief of Tatler Arian Romanovsky, who allegedly demanded money from the state corporation for a block on negative publications on the Put Out the Light Telegram channel, are not sitting idle. Today, in the Moscow City Court, they tried to appeal against the decision to place the defendants in custody for two months, asking to replace it with house arrest.

First, Kirill Sukhanov “shot back” in court: his appeal was heard first. The defendants themselves were present in the courtroom virtually – via video link from the pre-trial detention center. Until recently, the gossip heroes who shone at parties appeared completely different before the court: drooping, concentrated, in modest sweatshirts instead of expensive tuxedos. At some point, a migrant guy was put in a video booth with them, whose case was to be considered soon: this third one, it seems, did not even realize that he had become a direct witness to the drama involving VIPs.

Arian Romanovsky (Kuzmin) and Kirill Sukhanov (left to right) on the screen via video link from the pre-trial detention center during the consideration of appeals.  Photo: Sergey Karpukhin / TASS

Arian Romanovsky (Kuzmin) and Kirill Sukhanov (left to right) on the screen via video link from the pre-trial detention center during the consideration of appeals. Photo: Sergey Karpukhin / TASS

MALAKHOV’S LETTER AND 15 MILLION DEPOSITS

Sukhanov’s defense turned out to be numerous, but they did not explain who these people were to journalists: lawyer Svetlana Lipatova categorically refused to comment. The defender relied on the numerous positive characteristics of Sobchak’s assistant, which she read out for about half an hour. Letters in support of the detainee were sent by a dozen companies from jewelry tycoons to dumpling manufacturers, and even Andrey Malakhov wrote a couple of lines. Everyone said the same thing: Kirill is a decent citizen, a competent specialist and a responsible employee, he was not noticed in dubious scams, he was not held accountable, he had no financial problems – here is the account statement. True, it turned out that Xenia Anatolyevna’s assistant does not have a permanent residence permit, although he lives in an elite village near Moscow. But this, according to the lawyer, is not a reason to hide from the investigation. Moreover, a bail of as much as 15 million was made for Sukhanov: 4 million was collected by his father, another 11 – by a well-known bank, whose client is the detainee.

“I don’t have and never had access to posting and deleting posts on the Turn off the Light Telegram channel,” Kirill Sukhanov spoke at the trial. – I ask you to release me under house arrest and undertake to fully cooperate with the investigation.

Kirill Sukhanov and Ksenia Sobchak at the film premiere, September 2022

Kirill Sukhanov and Ksenia Sobchak at the film premiere, September 2022

A photo: Boris KUDRYAVOV

In addition, the detainee’s brother promised to provide him with an apartment in Moscow for the entire period of house arrest, and the lawyer once again reminded that the investigation had no evidence that Sobchak’s assistant was involved in the extortion that he was charged with. However, all this turned out to be in vain: the court did not change the measure of restraint. Hearing this, Arian Romanovsky lowered his head: if Sukhanov was left behind bars, the decision on him could hardly be different …

“THIS IS NO CRAZY!”

However, Romanovsky’s defense turned out to have a different approach: instead of a dozen positive characteristics, lawyer Dmitry Malyutov suggested re-examining the case materials on the merits: they say that the court of first instance unreasonably accused and arrested the journalist, believing the investigator’s assumptions. By the way, the trials and judges of Romanovsky and Sukhanov, despite being charged with the same crime, turned out to be different. Yes, and the lawyers of the detainees never united, perhaps because when receiving 800 thousand rubles at the end of October, only Kirill Sukhanov was detained. In the “history” of the journalist Romanovsky, who was arrested later, there are no such circumstances: he simply published posts on a secular Telegram channel in agreement with his superiors, namely Sobchak and Sukhanov.

Presenting himself to the court, the second detainee noted that he had neither foreign citizenship nor relatives abroad, just like the intent to hide.

– I am the only son of my mother, I provide her with material support. All my life and work takes place in Moscow, – Romanovsky clarified, arguing for his release from custody. – I do not agree with the accusations against me. I did my job in accordance with media law. And I still don’t even understand why it was possible to extort money there.

Arian Kuzmin (Romanovsky) after his arrest in October 2022. Photo: Press service of the Tver Court

Arian Kuzmin (Romanovsky) after his arrest in October 2022. Photo: Press service of the Tver Court

The same post in Telegram dated October 22, from which all the fuss began and which the victim, the head of Rostec, Sergey Chemezov, regarded as discrediting, was read aloud in court: “Billionaire Andrey Bokarev celebrates his birthday among guests at the house of a friend Vitaly Mashchitsky. Sergei Chemezov came to congratulate Bokarev, with whom the owner of the host house has been friends since childhood … “.

“In fact, there is only one sentence about the head of Rostec,” lawyer Malyutov insisted in court. – They say that my client disclosed the location and data on the movements of the victim. But there is no address, no time. Nobody knows where Maschitsky lives. In addition, Arian Romanovsky is accused of extortion: this is a demand to transfer someone else’s property under the threat of spreading defamatory information that can cause significant harm. But in our country there are hardly any people who would threaten or demand something from the victim – Mr. Chemezov. There are no such fools!

The lawyer also read out in court a transcript of Arian Romanovsky’s negotiations with an employee who provided security at the billionaire’s birthday, and then demanded that the Telegram channel administrators remove the “defamatory” message. Moreover, this employee himself turned to Sukhanov and Romanovsky, and as the lawyer put it, “he harassed them for two days in order to hand over money.”

Here is what excerpts from these negotiations on the removal of the discord post looked like (the full record was not provided to the investigation):

Romanovsky: I cannot help you in any way and promise you something. And I don’t see anything special in this post. And what’s the problem? What caused such a reaction? They wrote even worse, for example, about the birthday of Roman Arkadievich …

Companion: This is incorrect information because it is private life. It’s not meant to be talked about. Arian, you’re a sane person, decent. There is nothing like that, but people are uncomfortable. Let’s call you tomorrow or meet in person, we’ll discuss everything…

Another conversation of the same subscriber took place with Kirill Sukhanov. It was not read out in detail, only one phrase of the caller: “Well, maybe 500 thousand?”.

– Do you know what it looks like? It’s as if the person concerned wants to receive a service, and Kirill Sukhanov is ready to provide and monetize it, – lawyer Malyutov added, and thus outlined the main difference between the accused: Romanovsky was responsible only for the “letters”, doing the work of a journalist; Sukhanov also solved money issues. And if Sobchak or Sukhanov made money on “blocks”, ordinary employees did not know anything about it. Moreover, according to KP.RUArian Romanovsky and his colleagues in the “Put out the Lights” project did not even have time to receive a salary from Sobchak, who oversaw the scandalous Telegram channel: they were hired on October 1, and the first salaries were to be given to workers on November 1.

Nevertheless, the court turned a deaf ear to the arguments of Romanovsky and his defense: just like Kirill Sukhanov, the journalist was left in a pre-trial detention center until December 24. Romanovsky’s lawyers promised to appeal against this decision in cassation.

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