30.1 The Trial of Yakir and Krasin

No 30 : 31 December 1973

On 27 August 1973 in the Lyublino district people’s court in Moscow judicial proceedings commenced in the case of Pyotr Yakir and Victor Krasin, indicted for criminal anti-Soviet activities under Article 70, para. 1, of the RSFSR Criminal Code. The judge was Mironov, deputy chairman of the Moscow City Court. Solonin, an assistant to the procurator-general, served as prosecutor; Yudovich and Shveisky acted as counsel for the defence.

The court was in session for almost a week without recessing. Representatives of various state and public organizations (the composition of this group changed from day to day) were allowed into the courtroom with special tickets. The defendants’ relatives were also permitted to attend the trial. After questioning, witnesses had the right to remain in the courtroom until the end of the trial, but only two or three chose to do so. Friends and acquaintances of the defendants were barred from the courtroom. Guards with red arm bands told them the courtroom was full and finally asked the group assembled on the street to move away from the court building. Foreign correspondents, too, were not admitted to the trial but were regularly given information about the proceedings.

The materials of the Yakir-Krasin case constituted 150 volumes. There is reason to believe that at the start of the investigation charges were preferred under Article 64 (Treason). During the pre-trial investigation more than 200 people were interrogated.

The reading of the indictment took four hours. Yakir and Krasin were accused of the following activities: the composition and signing, possession, duplication and circulation of many documents of a political nature, of letters of protest, leaflets and A Chronicle of Current Events; transmission of these documents to the West through foreign journalists or foreign tourists; procurement and subsequent possession of various documents of the NTS [1] and other literature published in the West, categorized in the indictment as anti-Soviet; the receipt of 4,000 roubles from the NTS through a representative of the Italian organization “Europa Civilta”; procurement from foreigners of portable tape-recorders subsequently to be used “for hostile purposes”; statements and an interview given to the foreign press and television.

Both defendants pleaded guilty in full and repented of their actions. Both also acknowledged that they had had designs against Soviet authority.

Of approximately 30 witnesses examined during the trial, many were not residents of Moscow. One of the witnesses, the psychiatrist Snezhnevsky, stated, among other things, that in his entire 50 years’ experience in psychiatric institutions, no healthy individual had ever been confined in a psychiatric hospital.

During the examination of witnesses Judge Mironov tried mainly to corroborate and clarify the points of the indictment and refrained from judgements, leaving this to the prosecution.

In his speech to the court prosecutor, Solonin demanded a penalty of 3 years’ imprisonment and 3 years of exile for each of the defendants. In their pleadings counsel for the defence acknowledged that their clients’ actions had been categorized correctly.

Both attorneys gave detailed accounts of the unlawful persecutions Yakir and Krasin had endured during the period of the Cult of [Joseph Stalin’s] Personality and of the serious ill health from which both suffered. In conclusion, they asked the court to limit the penalty to the amount of time the defendants had already served.

Yakir, in a brief final plea, requested some form of penalty other than imprisonment. “I want to die elsewhere than behind barbed wire,” he said. Krasin, too, asked to have his sentence reduced. On 1 September the verdict was announced. Each man was sentenced to 3 years’ imprisonment and 3 years’ exile.

After sentencing, the defendants were permitted a brief meeting with their relatives in the courtroom. Yakir and Krasin asked them to thank their lawyers and inform the latter that their services would no longer be needed. Each of the convicted men wrote his own appeal against the sentence.

*

A PRESS CONFERENCE WITH YAKIR AND KRASIN, ATTENDED BY FOREIGN CORRESPONDENTS, was held in the House of Journalists on 5 September. Portions of it were broadcast on television the same day. Both men repented of their criminal deeds which had, objectively speaking, furthered the hostile activities of anti-Soviet organizations abroad. Yakir described reports of psychiatric persecution of dissenters in the Soviet Union as “libellous”. Subsequently the news conference was given extensive coverage in the press.

In an appellate session on 28 September the RSFSR Supreme Court reviewed the decision of the Moscow City Court. Procurator Ilyukhin (acting for [Procurator-General] Rudenko) argued the case for the prosecution. He declared the court’s decision valid and presented a medical report on the health of Yakir and Krasin. The main conclusion of the physicians was that further confinement of the accused in custody could seriously endanger their health. For this reason Ilyukhin asked to have Yakir’s sentence reduced to one year and 4 months of imprisonment and Krasin’s to one year and one month, terms which were roughly equal to the time each had already served in the Lefortovo Prison since his arrest. The procurator asked that the sentence of exile remain in force. The RSFSR Supreme Court concurred with this proposal.

In mid-October Krasin was exiled to Kalinin [Tver], Yakir to Ryazan [both towns in Central Russia].

In late October or early November the RSFSR Supreme Court pardoned Krasin’s wife, Nadezhda Yemelkina, sentenced in 1971 to 5 years of exile under Article 190-3 of the RSFSR criminal code (see CCE 20, 22 and 23). She had been in exile in the town of Yeniseisk in the Krasnoyarsk Region [Siberia]. Yemelkina gave testimony which was very useful to the investigators conducting Case Number 24 (Chronicle 28.2 and Issue 29.8).

Early in December the KGB petitioned to have the criminal case against Irina Belogorodskaya dropped (apparently through the granting of a pardon). During the investigation she had testified against several people (see Chronicle 29.8 and this issue). Belogorodskaya was released from Lefortovo Prison where she had been confined for over 11 months.

The Chronicle lists below [in Russian alphabetical order by surname] the names of people whom it knows were interrogated during the investigation of the Yakir-Krasin-Belogorodskaya case (this list is far from complete: in all, over 200 people were interrogated).

L. Alexeyeva, G. Altunyan (Kharkov), A. Alshutov, V. Albrekht, A. Amalrik, Z. Asanova, T. Bayeva, V. Balakirev, V. Batshev, V. Bakhmin, A. Bolonkin, V. Bukovsky, N. Bukovskaya, T. Velikanova, V. Voinovich, A. Volpin, G. Gabai, I. Gabai, E. Gaidukov (Khabarovsk), Yu. Gendler (Leningrad), S. Genkin, L.I. Ginzburg, G. Gladkova, S. Gluzman (Kiev), Z.M. Grigorenko, V. Delone, M. Dzhemilev, T. Dibtseva (Sochi), V. Dremlyuga, A.A Dubrov, R. Dzemilev, N. Yemelkina, Father S. Zheludkov, T. Zhitnikova (Kiev), L. Ziman, Yu. lvanov, I. Kalynets (Lvov), A Kaplan, I Kaplun, L. Kardasevich, Yu. Karyakin, Yu. Kim, S. Kovalyov, V. Kozharinov, D. Kozilo, S. Kozilo, E. Kostyorina, N. Kravchenko, Yu. Krasin, I. Kristi, E. Kushev, L. Kusheva, A. Lavut, A. E. Levitin-Krasnov, P. Litvinov, Letinsky (Leningrad), Yu.M. Lotman (Tartu), G. Makudinova, Yu. Maltsev, D. Markov (Obninsk), V. Miloshevich, B. Mikhalevsky, R. Mukhamedyarov, B. Naidorf (Novosibirsk), A. Nenarokov, E. Olitskaya (Uman), B. Orlov, S. Pavlenkova (Gorky), O. Paulson (Smela), L. Pinsky, G. Podyapolsky, V. Ponomaryov (Kharkov), V. Rokityansky, I. Rudakov, V. Savenkova,T. Svirepova, V. Sevruk (Vilnius), Semendyayev (Melitopol), L. Serednyak (Kiev), V. Slepak, M. Smolyansky, E. Smorodinova, A. Snezlmevsky, V. Sokirko, S. Soldatov (Tallin), P. Starchik, N. Strokata (Odessa), G. Superfin, L. Ternovsky, V. Timachev, L. Tkachenko, L. Ubozhko, Ustinova, Forsel (Petrozavodsk?), V. Khaustov, T. Khodorovich, V. Chalidze, V. Chornovil (Lvov), N. Ya. Shatunovskaya, Yu. Shikhanovich, B. Shragin, Yu. Yukhnovets, G. Yablonsky, S. Jakas (Vilnius), I. Yakir, A. Yakobson, V. Yanushevich.

Statement by the Action Group
for the Defence of Human Rights in the USSR

At the trial of P. Yakir and V. Krasin, and in material published in the Soviet press, there have been insinuations that the Action Group for the Defence of Human Rights in the USSR engages in slander of the Soviet system.

The Action Group does not share the position taken at their trial by its former members P. Yakir and V. Krasin and feels obliged to make the following clear:

  • In all documents of the Action Group we report only facts. We are convinced of the truth of our reports.
  • The Action Group has never sought to discredit the social system or the government of its country. It has protested only against those actions of the authorities which it would consider inadmissible under any system and any government.
  • As a matter of principle the Action Group has refrained from making any political statements whatever. Now, as in the past, it considers its primary duty to be the defence of human rights in its country.

We continue to assert that in a series of instances psychiatry has been used in our country as a way of locking up people whom the authorities find objectionable. No assertions by Academician A. Snezhnevsky of the Academy of Medical Sciences or Professor R. Nadzharov [2], no repentant statements by P. Yakir and V. Krasin, and no court indictments or decisions can alter the appalling reality of this fact.

We direct attention to the fact that while publicly denying the use of psychiatry in the USSR to combat dissent, A. Snezhnevsky and R. Nadzharov are themselves accomplices in this crime. Their signatures appear on the forensic psychiatric reports of people convicted for ideological reasons. And on the basis of these reports Soviet courts rule that people be committed to psychiatric hospitals for compulsory treatment….

We affirm that during their investigation, trial and news conference P. Yakir and V. Krasin made false statements. It is tragic that these lies also affect the fate and reputation of all the political prisoners in the camps, prisons and psychiatric hospitals of the USSR.

We emphasize that a news conference given by people convicted of “anti-Soviet agitation and propaganda” is an unprecedented phenomenon in our country. Other such people suffer severe punishments merely for trying to get information about the conditions of their detention to the world outside.

We protest against the use of investigation methods which break people down and force them to discredit themselves, their actions and those of their comrades.

We draw attention to the impermissible conditions that prevail during investigations: the prolonged periods of confinement in investigation prisons, the banning of visits and correspondence (except when this benefits the investigators), and the lack of any right to legal counsel [3]. All this renders the person under investigation utterly defenceless against abuses by the investigation agencies.

We are alarmed by the resumption in our country of fierce campaigns of denunciation in which the accusers have no qualms about acknowledging that they have not read the works they are infuriated by. Wearer all the more alarmed to find members of our intelligentsia – scientists, writers, artists – participating in this campaign.

We also consider it our duty to express the deep respect we have for the noble and courageous stands taken by Academician A. Sakharov and the writer A. Solzhenitsyn.

The Initiative Group intends to continue in the future to make individual and collective efforts to promote universally acknowledged freedoms, such as the freedom to express and disseminate opinions, and, for example, the freedom not to be subjected to fraudulent charges by courts.

The Action Group for the Defence of Human Rights in the USSR:

T. Velikanova,
S. Kovalyov,
A. Levitin-Krasnov,
G. Podyapolsky,
T. Khodorovich.

September 1973.