On September 20 a Saint Petersburg court ruled in favor of Alla Chikinda, PR manager at Resource Center for LGBT. The defendant, Timur Bulatov, is now obligated to pay a compensation in the sum of 54 000 rubles (approximately $732) for having caused moral damage.
This story goes back to December of 2018, when Alla had received first insulting messages from Bulatov which he then kept sending regularly for a month ─ Alla got the last text message on January 20, 2019. In its turn, the Vyborg district court of Saint Petersburg only started reviewing the case in July of 2020. Ultimately, Anna Plusnina, lawyer from Resource Center for LGBT, and Alexander Belik, lawyer working together with Charitable Foundation Sphere*, helped Alla to bring Bulatov to justice and receive compensation.
It is worth empathizing that in June of 2021 court made a similar ruling in an almost identical case, where Bulatov was to compensate the aforementioned Anna Plusnina for having sent her insults via text messages. However, Plusnina was granted a smaller sum of 32 thousand rubles (~ $432).
At the very beginning, in July of 2019, after a complaint was filed with the prosecutor’s office in Saint Petersburg on the grounds of law against insults, the office found that all the text messages received by Ms. Plusnina and Ms. Chikinda indeed contained insults. Nonetheless, Bulatov could not be prosecuted solely on that basis, as a three-month statute of limitations had passed. Then the activists went to court demanding compensation for moral damage in the amount of 2 000 rubles (about $27) for each derogatory comment made.
The success of the case was ensured due the linguistic expertise that was requested at the court session on June 1, 2021. The expertise was court-ordered to be conducted by ‘Interregional Bureau of Judicial Expertise’. Experts confirmed that all texts sent by Bulatov to Alla Chikinda contained ‘words, phrases of derogatory nature, as well as negative insulting characteristics’.
Having heard the case during the final session on September 20, the court decided that Bulatov’s actions caused Alla Chikinda moral harm in the form of ‘SMS messages containing insulting words and phrases’ and ordered the defendant to pay a compensation in the sum of 54 000 rubles (approximately $732). In its ruling the court states that it ‘has no reason not to trust the conclusion reached by the experts’ as it gives ‘definite and direct answers to the questions posed by the court’. The sum of the compensation had been determined with consideration of the nature and extent of moral damage caused to the plaintiff.
Lawyer working with Charitable Foundation Sphere*, Alexander Belik, emphasizes: “It has been attempted to bring Bulatov, Milonov and other amoral activists to justice numerous times. But few saw the court process through. In the cases of Plusnina and Chikinda the key to success was their perseverance. The more there are people in Russia who are this dedicated, the faster we will defeat homophobia.
If you have encountered homophobic insults and bullying ─ don’t hesitate to address Russian LGBT Network** requesting legal assistance, I and my colleagues will give you a consultation and help prepare all the necessary documents.”
Alla Chikinda, PR-manager for Resource Center for LGBT, comments the result of the case as follows: “I am very glad that this story has finally ended. On the one hand, I am a little sad that it has taken almost three years to bring to justice someone who believes that he is in the right to insult and humiliate other people. All these years I have been feeling constant discomfort because I had to relive this situation again and again, I had to print out the screenshots with the messages and re-read them. I remember how the notary’s office refused to certify them because of the slurs they contained. To this day, this is the worst example of bullying that I have encountered; in all of my life, no one has treated me this way, not before and not after the incident, and I have never heard such words about myself.
On the other hand, despite the prolonged process, this is a very important result. This court decision shows that in our country it is possible to achieve justice and make someone take responsibility. I hope that this story will become an example for many people who also face offensive behavior and bullying, that it will highlight that it’s essential to not keep silent, to address the law enforcement and courts so that the very fact of a crime having been committed can be legally acknowledged”.
* According to the decision of the Russian Justice Ministry, Charitable Foundation Sphere is recognized under the ‘foreign agent’ law.
** According to the decision of the Russian Justice Ministry, Russian LGBT Network is recognized as a foreign agent organization without legal entity.
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