Staunton, November 23 – Russian prosecutors have apparently dropped charges of high treason against Ivan Moseyev, the director of the Arkhangelsk Institute of Indigenous Peoples and Minorities and the leader of the Pomor movement, and will now try him only on the lesser count of inciting ethnic hatred. These charges had sparked outrage in Norway.
At the opening of his trial on Tuesday, prosecutors made no reference to the treason charges that the FSB had sought because of what the security agency said were Moseyev’s cooperation with the Norwegian intelligence agency in order to “destabilize” the White Sea region of Russia (www.barentsobserver.com/en/society/2012/11/no-charge-high-treason-21-11).
Prosecutors, however, are continuing to seek his conviction on charges under Article 282 of the Russian Criminal Code for supposedly insulting ethnic Russians on the “Ekho Russkogo Severa” website in April, charges that Movseyev has denied in the past and denied at the session of the court.
“I don’t admit any guilt,” he said. “I didn’t have and I don’t have any intention of exciting hatred towards the ethnic group ‘Russians’ or towards any other ethnic group. I devote my work to just the opposite: I seek to bring peoples and nations together … to establishing peaceful and tolerant relations among different nationalities.”
Movseyev said that the Russian indictment is based “on an unclear and vague phrase that hasn’t even been included in the indictment. And if it had been included, everyone would understandits absurdity because the word ‘Russians’ is not even part of this phrase. Consequently, there isn’t any focus on anyone.”
“I absolutely deny any guilt and believe that the court can only render a verdict of not guilty,” the Pomor leader said.
The only reference to the former, more serious charges at the court were several Russian nationalists who carried signs denouncing the Pomors as “traitors” and “separatists.”
It is possible, of course, that the more serious charges could be re-instated, but it appears that the Russian authorities have concluded at least for the time being that by going forward, they risked both making themselves look ridiculous in the eyes of the world and harming relations with Norway in the first instance and other Arctic powers more generally.