A couple of days ago, Tomsk Governor Victor Kress was leaving a local community event, when a man approached him, screaming “For the death of my grandmother!” and popped him one in the nose. The man, Sergey Zaikov, is a member of the Solidarnost’ movement, though he apparently attacked Kress because he blames the governor for the death of his grandmother, who died over ten years ago. According to reports, police came to Zaikov in 1999 (when he was helping campaign against Kress) and searched his apartment for dangerous materials. His grandmother was living with him then, and she died a month and a half after the search, possibly from the stress inflicted on her by this run-in with the law.
Kress was apparently unharmed. His press secretary reported the incident in this rather badass retelling: “Кресс в полемику с оппонентом не вступал, а достал платок, вытер кровь и пошел дальше.” (Kress didn’t argue with his opponent, instead taking out his handkerchief, wiping away the blood, and continuing along.)
Mr. Zaikov is charged with violently attacking a public official. If convicted, the sentence ranges from a $6,500 fine (200 тысяч рублей) to up-to-five years in prison.
Oleg Kozlovsky wrote in his blog today that he believes Zaikov should be kicked out of the party. He lays out a series of drawbacks to defending the man, including: people will be turned away from joining a party that associates with extremists; it reinforces the authorities’ justification of overwhelming police presence for public spectacles; it draws attention to the most unbalanced and inadequate (“неуравновешенным и неадекватным”) members in the movement; and, lastly, it compromises the group’s morality superiority (“всегда должны быть на несколько ступеней выше наших оппонентов в моральном плане”).
Ilya Yashin, on the other hand, authored the movement’s official press release, which denounces Zaikov’s actions, but advocates his release from jail, the abandonment of criminal charges, and offers to provide him with legal aid, if the case goes ahead. Yashin’s statement also mentions an incident in 2006, where Zaikov was apparently “the victim of a violent attack” in the course of a political rally. “Power often drives people to inappropriate forms of protest,” the document reads.
I think both Kozlovsky and Yashin have reasonable points here. Oleg is absolutely right that stuff like this only further cements the perception that Solidarnost’ is composed of drooling conspiracy theorists. (Sadly, they’re not all so easily identified as Sergey Zaikov, I say looking in Kozlovsky’s own direction.) Yashin’s proposal (to reduce the charges/sentence) seems fair, too, though not for the reasons he suggests. Punching an official in the noggin ten years after a very loosely connected chain of events (maybe) contributed to the death of his grandmother does not make Zaikov a man driven to political violence.
The absence of direct causality and a decade-long delay in his “response” seems to me to suggest that he’s just kind of bonkers. There is also the odd detail (one of many, really) that Zaikov asked to be taken to the hospital immediately after being arrested. When the doctors found nothing physically wrong with him, it was back to the slammer.
Incidentally, he was involved in a similar attack in 1993, when he kicked Stepan Slukashin for supporting Yeltsin in his conflict with the Parliament. Slukashin didn’t want to appear in court, though, so the case was dropped.
I’m no doctor (but I have stayed in a Holiday Inn Express before), so we’ll see what Serega pleads. If his Solidarnost’-provided lawyer has ever watched an episode of Law & Order, he will hopefully get the good idea to claim insanity and ask for a little mercy.