‘Proekt’ investigation links Putin aide to persecution of historian Yuri Dmitriev
On Tuesday, February 16, St. Petersburg’s Third Court of Cassation allowed the 13-year prison sentence given to historian and activist Yuri Dmitriev to stand. Following this ruling, the investigative outlet Proekt released a report connecting Yuri Dmitriev’s persecution to presidential aide Anatoly Seryshev — the former head of the Karelian FSB.
The 64-year-old Dmitriev, who previously led the Karelian chapter of the human rights group Memorial, was sentenced under a criminal conviction for sexual assault against a minor in September 2020; Karelia’s Supreme Court opted to overturn a previous ruling sentencing him to 3.5 years in prison and add nearly 10 years to his sentence.
According to Proekt, the cases against Dmitriev could be linked to a list of NKVD officers that Memorial published in 2016. Dmitriev began receiving threats following the publication, even though he wasn’t directly involved in compiling the list.
The list included the name of one Vasily Mikhailovich Seryshev, who was involved in Stalinist repressions and later arrested for “participating in massive unjustified arrests” (notably, he was never rehabilitated). Proekt’s journalists suggest that Vasily Seryshev could have been a relative of Putin’s aide Anatoly Seryshev.
All the twists and turns surrounding the “Dmitriev case” coincide exactly with [Anatoly] Seryshev’s career moves. The persecution of the historian began while he was leading the Karelian FSB. As soon as Seryshev was transferred from the FSB to customs, the case was put on pause. But then the former general became an aide to Putin, [whose responsibilities] included overseeing the appointment of judges. And it began all over again.
In December 2016, Yuri Dmitriev was accused of sexually abusing his underage foster daughter and using her to create child pornography. In April 2018, a court acquitted Dmitriev of the two charges, but convicted him of illegal firearms possession and sentenced him to 3.5 years of strict probation. Karelia’s Supreme Court later overturned the acquittal.
In June 2018, reports emerged that the Russian authorities had launched another criminal case against Dmitriev for violent sexual assault against the same underage girl. Dmitriev was convicted and sentenced to 3.5 years in a maximum security penal colony, but the Karelian Supreme Court later overturned this sentence and upped his punishment to 13 years.
Memorial believes the case against Dmitriev is political. In 1997, the historian uncovered a mass grave made during the Stalinist terror in Karelia’s Sandarmokh forest massif. Dmitriev has also worked to compile memorial lists of local residents who were victims of Soviet era repression.
Nearly 250 cultural figures, including Nobel Prize laureates and foreign academics, signed a letter in support of Dmitriev in June 2020.