On Monday March 6, the Kurgan Regional Court overturned the verdict of preschool teacher Yevgenia Chudnovets. In November 2016, the school from the city of Kataisk was sentenced to six months in prison for reposting a three-second video camp employees making fun of a half-naked boy. The video was used to convict the employees in question. Chudnevets, in turn, insists that she posted the video in order to bring it to the attention of the public. At the end of February 2017, the Prosecutor General’s Office stated that Chudnovets had not committed any crime and the country’s Supreme Court demanded that the verdict be rescinded. Meduza briefly retells the history of Chudnevets’ criminal prosecution.
On March 6, the Kurgan regional court decided to release Kataisk preschool teacher Evgenia Chudnovets. On December 22, 2016, the very same court sentenced her to five months in prison for reposting a three-second video of a half-naked child being bullied in camp. Chudnovets was accused of spreading pornography. Now her case case has closed for a lack of corpus delicti and Chudnovets has gained the right to rehabilitation.
Chudnevets reposted the video in August 2015. From court materials it is known that the video consists of footage of a boy with lowered underwear having an object resembling a pencil being thrust into his anus. A female is heard saying: “Look, the whole country is looking at you!”
According to Chudnevets, she posted the video to draw public attention to what was happening. Within five hours, she deleted the video at the suggestion of her friend. It turned out later that the video was filmed in a local children’s camp called The Red Eagles and the voice belonged to twenty-three-year-old counselor Tatyana Kursheva.
The video formed the basis of a criminal case on the production of pornography and the improper supervision of a minor. During the interrogation, the boy, who was filmed by the counselors, said that Kursheva, along with the leader of The Red Eagles Danil Bezborodov, regularly mocked him, forcing him to run naked in the camp’s residential building after lights-out. They also thrust a pencil in the child's anus (in their court testimony, Kursheva and Bezborodov said that the boy had thrust a pencil into his own anus). On June 29, 2016, the Katai District Court sentenced Kursheva and Bezborodov respectively to six and three years in prison.
The case against Chudnevets was initiated in February 2016, though she herself had only learned of the investigation in June 2016. She was accused of spreading pornography. Evidence in the case against Chudnevets was duplicated from the case against Kursheva and Bezborodov. In November 2016, the Katai District Court sentenced Chudnevets to six months in prison (the prosecution required five years of imprisonment). The court also decided to transfer the guardianship rights of Chudnevets’s three-year-old son to the authorities, despite the fact that the child has a father – Chudnovets’s ex-husband. Ultimately, the child’s relatives refused to support this decision and the child was left with his father.
The court’s decision was criticized by Russia’s Commissioner for Children’s Rights Anna Kuznetsova. The head of Russia’s Investigative Committee Alexander Bastrykin demanded that there be a thorough investigation into the matter. Shortly thereafter, the prosecution appealed the decision and requested that Kurgan Regional Court overturn Chudnovets’s punishment and grant her her freedom.
On December 22, 2016, Kurgan’s Regional Court reduced Chudnevets’s sentence to five months in prison, as opposed to the earlier six. The court also ruled against transferring her son to an orphanage. In February 2017, Chudnevets’s lawyers brought the case to the European Court of Human Rights.
In February 2017, Russia’s General Prosecutor’s Office unexpectedly asked the country’s Supreme Court to overturn Chudnovets’s verdict. In his presentation, Russia’s Deputy Prosecutor General Leonid Korzhinek said that Chudnevets had not committed a crime. On February 27, the Supreme Court started looking into Chudnevets’s case and demanded the very next day that the verdict be reviewed by Kurgan’s Regional Court.
Chudnevets will be released as early as the evening of March 6. She is serving a sentence in the Nizhny Tagil penal colony number 6 and was not present in the court room when the decision was made. The court could not even establish a video call with the colony and the hearing was held in a closed session. Two hours after the court’s decision to release Chudnevets, a car carrying all pertaining documents was sent to the penal colony. The teacher will be released after the documents have been received.