An Arrest of the Counter-Agitator

Izvestiya 11.02.00

Victoria Averbukh

At the end of last week, within the course of the investigation of several criminal cases, Deputy Head of Smolensk region Local Administration Yuri Balbyshkin was arrested. The deputy governor has not yet been charged officially, but “Izvestiya” found out that he might face an imprisonment under article 235, part 2 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation – “abuse of power.” Shortly before his arrest, Yuri Balbyshkin sent a letter to “Izvestia” in which he threatened to sue the newspaper for libel. Below are the details in Victoria Averbukh’s report.

On October 24, Yuri Balbyshkin was summoned to the investigation department of the regional FSB, and after nearly three-hour conversation he was arrested “within the scope of an operation to combat corruption in the government.”

“Izvestiya” has repeatedly reported about the criminal situation in Smolensk region, the links between criminals and officials, and about the heads of the Regional Directorate for Combating Organized Crime who had been arrested.

After a series of publications, on February 4 of this year, a commission established at the direction of the President came to the region. It included the employees of the Federal Security Service, the Prosecutor General office, the tax police and the presidential administration. The next day after their arrival, the chairman of the Committee for Social Protection of the Population of the regional administration Ivan Safonov was killed. Following this, unknown people attempted to murder the brother of the director of the liquor plant “Bacchus” Mr. Kolesnikov. In such a situation, the Commission defined the crime situation in the region as “poor” and sent a letter to the Governor Alexander Prokhorov.

In June of this year, the director of “Bacchus” Sergei Kolesnikov was killed. Former investigator for particularly important cases of the Smolensk Regional Prosecutor’s Office Kolesnikov had suddenly turned into a regional Duma deputy and headed the Committee on Law and Order, and he also became the “vodka king” of the region – “Bacchus” was the largest distillery. The police investigators linked the murder of Kolesnikov with the quarrel that had occurred between him and the administration of the region. A few days before his death, he promised to talk live at the local opposition radio station “Vesna.”

– He told me then, “This administration and I are no longer headed the same way,” – the journalist of “Vesna” Nikolai Goshko says. – We were already broadcasting an advertisement of the upcoming live interview with him just when he was killed.

Less than a month before that, the head of “Vesna” Sergei Novikov was shot. In the afternoon on July 26, Smolensk regional television showed the transfer of “Globus,” in which Novikov also participated. In this program, the journalists spoke about Yuri Balbyshkin. Novikov said that he knew and could prove numerous facts of corruption by Balbyshkin, and that that topic would be discussed in further detail in the coming programs of the radio station “Vesna.” A few days before his murder, Novikov applied for a permit to carry a weapon.

The journalists immediately linked the murder of Kolesnikov and Novikov together. The law enforcement agencies of the region do not deny this turn of events. The killers of Kolesnikov were soon arrested (their names are not disclosed for legal reasons). Our correspondent learned that Balbyshkin was also being questioned about his involvement in the murder of Kolesnikov. To our knowledge, he is indicted for “abuse” in the deal with the sale of two distilleries that were part of “Bacchus.”

After the arrest of his Deputy, Governor Alexander Prokhorov met with a representative of the President in the Central Federal District Georgy Poltavchenko. Speaking for the local television, he clearly stated his position – not to interfere with the investigation but to make sure that everything was done according to the law. At the same time, after the results of the work of the “presidential” commission, Prosecutor General’s Office initiated more than two hundred criminal cases on the facts related to tax evasion, corruption, embezzlement and other violations in the economic sphere.

In its article about the murder of Sergei Novikov, “Izvestia” wrote about the activities of Yuri Balbyshkin: by virtue of his official position, he manages the Investment Committee for Foreign Economic Relations, Trade, Consumer Services and Property Management. During the preparation of this article, Balbyshkin was on vacation and could not comment on the situation. However, after returning from his vacation he immediately sent a letter to the editor. He was offended by the fact that “Izvestiya” called him a “controversial figure;” he accused the journalists of the newspaper of being “puppets” and claimed that “some clients ” had imposed the conflict upon the newspaper. He threatened to file a complaint on the newspaper in court. A local TV station even reported that the trial had already taken place and that “Izvestiya” had lost the case. In fact, no lawsuit was filed against the newspaper, and we were ready to meet with Yuri Balbyshkin, of which we informed his personal assistant in the administration. Once Yury Alekseevich would be freer for that.

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