St. Petersburg councilman files defamation charges after media tied to ‘Putin’s chef’ accuse him of sexually harassing his students
Boris Vishnevsky, a deputy in St. Petersburg’s Legislative Assembly and perhaps the city’s most prominent oppositionist, is suing Evgeny Prigozhin’s “Patriot” media group over a series of publications accusing him of sexually harassing his students.
In a Facebook post, Vishnevsky revealed that he filed a police report on November 14, demanding an investigation into the stories and felony defamation charges against “the organizations and distributors of these lies.”
On November 7, the website Narodnye Novosti reported that it received an email from a certain Kristina who identified herself as a graduate from Herzen University. The woman stated that Vishnevsky, who teaches political science at the school, “sexually harassed” her and other first-year students. A week later, The Federal News Agency published a similar letter from someone who identified herself as Alina. Both outlets published screenshots of the messages, without ever speaking to the authors or trying to verify their claims. Some news websites also compared Vishnevsky to Oleg Sokolov, the historian who recently murdered and dismembered a graduate student he was dating, and called Vishnevsky a “pedophile.” The state television network Rossiya 24 aired a segment about this, as well.
“What these scumbags from Prigozhin’s rags and the state TV channels are saying about me is a total lie. This is the authorities’ revenge for my political activity and political position,” Vishnevsky wrote on Facebook.
In an interview with the independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta, Vishnevsky said he never taught first-year students at Herzen University, and he says he never had a student in 2014 named Kristina. The school’s press service says the university has spoken to Vishnevsky’s current students and colleagues, and no one raised any issues about his behavior.
Vishnevsky isn’t the first St. Petersburg Legislative Assembly deputy to run afoul of Evgeny Prigozhin’s tabloid empire. Earlier this year, after local police officers violently arrested more than 60 activists at the city’s May Day demonstration, The Federal News Agency and other publications connected to Prigozhin reported — without any evidence — that councilman Maxim Reznik was detained while under the influence of illegal drugs.
Translation by Kevin Rothrock