The basis of citizens’ trust in the state is the predictable actions of officials. The history of Olesya Kolesnichenko’s lawsuits

24 September 2021

Olesya Kolesnichenko, a resident of Yoshkar-Ola, filed a lawsuit for compensation by the state for moral damage caused to her by a trial against an official from the Department of Education. The official accused her of using physical violence, which caused the deterioration of her psychological state and the overall quality of life. Kolesnichenko demands 600 thousand rubles. Moral damage is confirmed by a psychological examination.

Dmitry Yalikov, a lawyer of NGO “Man and Law”, worked on the Kolesnichenko case along with the advocate.

We will tell you what significance of the case of Olesya Kolesnichenko for society is and why it is so difficult for a citizen to sue government organizations.

History of the conflict

In March 2020, Olesya Kolesnichenko and her child came to the Yoshkar-Ola Education Department to get a place in a kindergarten. The deputy head of the department, Elena K., and her secretary were in the office. The deputy chief said that there were no places in kindergartens, and wanted to end the conversation on this, but Kolesnichenko demanded that her application be officially registered with the secretary.

“The official registration of the accepted application in any state body is necessary in order to confirm the fact of the appeal in the future,” explains Dmitry Yalikov. – Also, the registration of the application obliges the official to consider the application within the prescribed period and make a written response, which must be handed over or sent to the applicant.”    

One of the two copies of the application was accepted and registered. But while Olesya Kolesnichenko was making out the second copy, the official (probably dissatisfied with the fact that she would have to formalize the refusal documents) began to pull Olesya and her child by the hands towards the exit and throw their things, forcing them to leave the office.

Protecting the child, Olesya, according to her, received a blow to the head and leg from an official. Elena K.’s glasses just flew off.

Kolesnichenko called the police department. In the evening of the same day, the district police officer took an explanation from the woman. Then she went to the emergency room of Yoshkar-Ola, where she recorded injuries.

Later it became known that the official also wrote a complaint to the police, accusing, in turn, the woman of striking on her head and leg.

Courts

In June 2020, the Magistrates court considered the case on the application of Kolesnichenko under the article “Beatings” (6.1.1 of the Administrative Code) and did not find any offense in the actions of the official. The following month, for the same reason, Olesya was refused to initiate a criminal case in the Investigative Committee of Mari El Republic.

As follows from the decision on refusal to initiate a criminal case, issued by the investigator of the investigative department for Yoshkar-Ola of the Investigative Committee of Mari El Republic, there was no crime event in the fact indicated by Kolesnichenko.    

But Kolesnichenko herself was accused of using violence against a representative of the authorities (part 1 of Article 318 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation). In August, the Investigative Committee sent the case with an indictment to the court. In November, the court issued an acquittal in this case.

The legal support of the case was conducted jointly by the lawyer of NGO “Man and Law” Dmitry Yalikov and the advocate by appointment. He worked out a legal position with her and prepared documents for the process.

Despite the fact that the court acquitted Kolesnichenko under the article on the use of violence against a representative of the authorities, it considered that she had used violence, but out of hostile relations.

“We do not agree with the very fact of the use of physical force, since the accusation was based solely on the testimony of the victim and her subordinate employees, there was not even a medical certificate in the case materials with the recording of the victim’s injuries,” comments Dmitry Yalikov.

Role of the media in human-state conflicts

The mass media often rush to characterize the heroes of their materials, making assessments based on press releases of state structures. This happened in the story of Olesya Kolesnichenko.

The Investigative Committee of Mari El Republic, as it does regularly, published a press release stating that it had issued an indictment in the Kolesnichenko case and sent it to the court. This does not mean that the person has already been found guilty. This is only the position of the Investigative Committee so far.

The media of the region reprinted this press release, strengthening the accusatory intonations of the Investigative Committee and describing Olesya with negative epithets. In the publication of the newspaper “Mariskaya Pravda”, for example, there was a material called “An excessively aggressive mother will go to court”.

“Journalists described this situation exclusively from the position of Olesya Kolesnichenko’s guilt, while she was not found guilty,” comments Olga Vasileva, an employee of NGO “Man and Law”. — A negative image was actively formed in the media and hostility towards this woman was kindled. The media obediently repeated the press releases of the court and investigation bodies, without even understanding the situation. The Investigative Committee publishes information from its position of accusers, but media employees should remember that the person has not yet been charged, and try to avoid affirmative formulations regarding the person’s actions, the degree of guilt and the characteristics as a person, such as “excessively aggressive” in the article of the newspaper “Mariskaya Pravda” given here.

 In addition, the investigators’ release and the article repeating it emphasized that, according to the investigation, Olesya Kolesnichenko’s child could not apply for a place in a kindergarten, whereas in the case that came to court, it was not about this, but about the use of violence. Thus, these materials fully reflected the position of the officials and did not reflect the position of Kolesnichenko in any way, creating her image of an already guilty person.

At the end of 2020, this situation was repeated in the story of the public figure Ramai Yuldash. The commission of the Yoshkar-Ola administration issued him a fine of 3 thousand rubles for trying to plant trees in the park near the memorial to the victims of political repression, without coordinating his actions with the Committee on Ecology. The newspaper “Mariskaya Pravda” wrote that the activists would receive a fine, calling them “two-bit activists” in one of the headlines and informing about the decision of the administrative commission as a fait accompli — “they will pay a fine”. Later, the court recognized the violation of Yuldash and his comrades as insignificant and canceled the commission’s fine. Despite this, the Yoshkar-Ola newspaper published an article entitled “The court found the participants of illegal tree planting guilty”, which stated that the court had left the decision of the administrative commission unchanged.

Claim for compensation for moral damage

Since the court found Olesya Kolesnichenko innocent, according to the law she has the right to rehabilitation.

Now she is filing a claim for compensation for moral damage. The psychological examination found that the illegal criminal prosecution and the trial caused psychological trauma, stress, anxiety and, as a result, deterioration of Kolesnichenko’s quality of life. She estimates the moral damage at 600 thousand rubles and demands that the state compensate it.

Why is it important to protect Kolesnichenko?

“When we conduct such cases, we consider them not only from the position of the client, but much more broadly,” comments Sergei Poduzov, co-chairman of the Interregional non-governmental human rights organization “Man and Law”. – “We represent every person who has to stand alone with the state apparatus. After all, when faced with the arbitrariness of power, a person is forced to defend himself from a huge mechanism, where the entire “system” works smoothly against him.

Our task is not only to protect a particular person, but to encourage officials and authorities to work in the interests of a person, and not against him.

When human rights defenders work with the authorities, they always raise the same question — the question of predictability on the part of a representative of the state. A person can be different — emotional, illiterate, demanding, but this does not give the right to a representative of the state to behave incorrectly at his workplace. We proceed from the fact that an official is first of all a professional, correct and restrained.

At the workplace, an official acts on behalf of the Russian Federation and has no right to incorrect behavior!

The position of an official should be to help a citizen; this is both his mission and official duty. And when an official “attacks” a person, connecting all available legal and non-legal (in this case, the media) mechanisms to this, does he fulfill in this case his role assigned to him by the state and society? Will people be able to trust the state if every visit to the authority can end with a criminal charge?

Predictability lies precisely in the fact that every person, when addressing an official, knows how the official will behave — will provide assistance, as prescribed by his job descriptions, or will advise where to apply if the appeal is not in his competence. It is precisely predictable actions that promote trust in the state.”

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