On June 11 Vyborg district court (Saint Petersburg) ruled in favor of Anna Plusnina ordering the defendant, Timur Bulatov, to pay a fine equaling the sum of 32 thousand rubles, or approximately 443 U.S. dollars, as compensation for moral damages.
The events at the heart of the court case took place in December of 2018. Back then Timur Bulatov sent over fifteen text messages containing numerous insults to Alla Chikinda and Anna Plusnina alluding to their work as activists for Resource Center for LGBT in Ekaterinburg. That kind of behavior does not appear inconsistent with other of Bulatov’s actions in the past. *
In the aftermath of the incident Alla and Anna had begun seeking ways to bring Bulatov to justice. Once they needed representation in court, Russian LGBT Network stepped in by providing the legal assistance. However, neither of the two women’s lawsuits progressed rapidly, and they reached courts in Saint Petersburg only in February of 2020.
Initially Ms. Plusnina filed the lawsuit in accordance with the article 5.61 of the Code of Administrative Offences (insult). Although Ekaterinburg’s prosecution swiftly commenced the trial proceedings, Bulatov’s residence in Saint Petersburg and the consequent necessity to coordinate the process and send the documents back and forth considerably hampered the entire process. As the result, judicial review of Anna’s complaint was not completed in under three months, the established time window for prosecuting the offense in question and was ultimately dropped. Naturally, the lawsuit needed reformulation, as well as relocation court-wise, but most of all, as far as tackling the bureaucratic peculiarities goes, it required time.
Still, as can be concluded, in the end Anna’s claim has been granted. One of defining aspects of the case that has arguably played a key role in its successful resolution is the result of the forensic examination of the text messages in question. The court had decided on bringing in an independent expert from Inter-regional Bureau of Forensic Analysis. In their turn, the independent expert attested to the offensive nature of the messages sent by Bulatov. The latter, on his part, kept insisting that there was no means of establishing with absolute certainty who it had been exactly who had used his phone for sending the messages to Ms. Plusnina. According to him, it could have been any one of his acquaintances. Nonetheless, if to regard such a circumstance from the standpoint of procedural law, it was up to Bulatov to prove to the court who, if not himself, had been the sender of the messages, and he forewent doing so.
Alexander Belik, lawyer with the Russian LGBT Network who represents Anna Plusnina, commented on the court ruling as follows: “I understand why nobody else has brought Bulatov to justice till this day. Our law enforcement and judicial systems operate at a slow pace. But at the end of the day our fight for what is right yielded a result, and Bulatov will have to act in accordance with the law. Never make peace with injustice, seek assistance from human rights organizations to protect your rights”.
Additionally, Mr. Belik made known their intention to further address the court with the claim for a 100 thousand rubles (~1,400 USD) in legal fees compensation from Bulatov.
Meanwhile the trial process in the Vyborg district court of Saint Petersburg for Alla Chikinda, in a case identical to Ms. Plusnina’s, continues. At present moment, the court has ordered a forensic analysis of the messages received by Alla from Bulatov’s phone to determine if they contain anything offensive in nature.
*Here we are referring to the instances when Bulatov outed LGBT+ youth to their schools and the police, filed complaints against LGBT+ and feminist activists, and sabotaged film festivals (Bok o Bok, Artdocfest) because of ‘their LGBT agenda’.