RUSSIA: Court orders Kommersant to pay damages to Chechen leader

February 7, 2007
Posted February 23, 2007



Popular Russian daily Kommersant was ordered to publish a court verdict and to pay 10,000 rubles (US$382) in damages to Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov for a July 2006 critical article, according to international and local press reports.

On February 7, the Tverskoy court in Moscow ruled in favor of Kadyrov, who claimed that the Russian daily Kommersant published an article, “Chechen Commander: Cult of Personality,” that disgraced his honor and dignity. In October 2006, Kadyrov filed the civil lawsuit against Kommersant for his moral damage as a result of the article, according to international and local press reports.

Although the article contained quotes from then-Chechen President Alu Alkhanov, members of the Chechen Parliament, and private citizens in the republic which praised Kadyrov’s performance as the prime minister, a background story to the article published the opinions of 9 Russian and Chechen political leaders that was more critical. In this section, Vissarion Aseyev, a local parliament deputy the southern Russian republic of North Ossetia, referred to Kadyrov as a criminal and stated his place was not on the “premier’s arm chair, but on the electric chair.”

The head of Kommersant’s legal department, Georgy Ivanov, told CPJ that the paper’s Editor-in-Chief Andrei Vasiliyev has not decided to appeal yet, but Ivanov believes Kommersant should appeal and has the legal basis to do so.

Vasiliyev echoed Ivanov’s statement in a recent interview with Radio Free Europe/ Radio Liberty. “According to Russian law, opinions are not the subject of persecution. … We haven’t made a decision yet, but in principal, we have all the grounds to appeal this verdict,” RFE/RL quoted him as saying.