21.2 The Trial of D. Mikheyev and F. de Perregaux

No 21 : 11 September 1971

Moscow. The trial of Dmitry Mikheyev and Francois de Perregaux, a citizen of Switzerland, took place in public at the Moscow City Court on 17-23 August (for their arrest,  see CCE 16.10, item 7; and investigation, CCE 18.10, item 4). The investigator was KGB Major Fochenkov.

The chairman of the court was [V. V.] Bogdanov; the prosecutor, Procurator Vasilyev; counsel for Mikheyev, [Leonid] Popov; for de Perregaux, [Nikolai] Borovik. [2]

Those present in court, besides the “regular audience” [i.e. plain-clothes police], included: Mikheyev’s mother and female cousin; de Perregaux’s father; two or three representatives of the Swiss embassy; A. D. Sakharov for the Committee for Human Rights; and representatives of the Physics Faculty and the administration of Moscow University. A 32-millimetre cine-camera and a videotape-recorder were installed in the court-room.

F. Mikheyev (b. 1941), a postgraduate student at the Physics Faculty of Moscow University and vice-president of the Physicists’ International Discussion Club, was charged under Articles 64 (via 15), 70, 83 and 196 of the Russian Criminal Code; de Perregaux (b. 1937), a biologist was charged under Article 64 (via 17).

The indictment against Mikheyev made the following charges:

(1)       in consequence of his anti-Soviet beliefs and with treacherous aims, including engaging in anti-Soviet propaganda, he attempted to carry out an escape across the border, in connection with which he twice travelled to the area of the Soviet-Finnish frontier for purposes of reconnaissance, and received a map of this area by diplomatic mail from his friend Anika Backstrom in Sweden;

(2)       after his escape he intended to request political asylum, issue anti-Soviet statements, and engage in anti-Soviet propaganda activities;

(3)       through the Austrian exchange-student Karl-Joseph Vogelmann he attempted to send a packet abroad by diplomatic mail containing personal articles, 165 dollars, his diaries, and manuscripts of slanderous content called “How to fool the people” and “Empire of lies”;

(4)       he was the author of the slanderous work “How to fool the people”, which he typed in four copies and gave to his friends Ovchinnikov, the Shakhnazarovs, the Velikanovs and others to read; and that he made slanderous statements (about the level of democracy in the USSR, the lack of freedom of information and of the pre-conditions for free creative work; about the sending of troops into Czechoslovakia, and about the mass repression which he claimed would take place if there were to be a war with China, and so on);

(5)       he duplicated and circulated books by [the philosopher] Berdyaev, The Technology of Power by Avtorkhanov [3] and the “Programme of the Democrats of Russia, the Ukraine, Belorussia and the Baltic”; [4]

(6)       he exchanged Soviet currency in a number of illegal operations, using false documents and a false signature, and that he practised forging the signature;

(7)       he attempted to leave the USSR by using the passport and aeroplane ticket of the Swiss national de Perregaux.

De Perregaux was charged with coming to the USSR with the object of helping Mikheyev to leave the country, for which purpose he had given the latter his passport and his ticket for an aeroplane bound for Austria.

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When questioned, Mikheyev testified that when he was a student at Moscow University he had shared a room with foreign students, made friends with many of them, and discussed with them various questions of the internal affairs of the USSR.

Attempting to develop independence of thought, he had analysed the state of affairs in the country and gradually evolved one-sided views on events taking place, making an incorrect appraisal of Soviet reality. His views had now altered, for which he was grateful to the officials of the KGB. When dreaming of going abroad he had intended to live a modest life there as a secondary-school teacher, not engaging in politics. He had not realised at the time that those who were helping him to carry out his escape would not leave him in peace.

De Perregaux testified that he had been aware that the reasons for Mikheyev’s escape were political, but he knew little of such matters, as he was not interested in politics. He had agreed to help Mikheyev because he wished to visit Moscow. He had not taken money for helping, but had helped out of humanitarian considerations.

QUESTIONING OF WITNESSES

Kisin refused to answer a question as to what Mikheyev had given him to read. (Kisin was due to defend his dissertation on 3 March 1971, but this was cancelled, and the notice announcing it withdrawn from the newspaper Evening Moscow: information had reached the relevant authority that Kisin was “insincere in his testimony in the investigation of Mikheyev’s case”.)

Vyacheslav Velikanov and his wife Olga Velikanova denied knowing in advance that Mikheyev had conceived a plan to flee the country (Olga Velikanova, a piano-teacher at the Moscow Conservatory, had already been expelled from the Party before the beginning of the trial).

Fon Sekki, assessing Mikheyev’s character in positive terms, told of how Mikheyev, after changing roubles for dollars, held given part of the dollars to Nedbailo, a poverty-stricken artist.

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The Procurator, whose speech lasted 40 minutes, did little but repeat the indictment. Taking into account the youth of the defendants and their assistance in the investigation, he requested the following sentences: for Mikheyev – one year under Article 196 (forgery of documents), three years under Article 88 (illegal currency operations), five years under Article 70, ten years under Article 64 (betrayal of the fatherland) via 15. To be served concurrently: ten years. For de Perregaux – three years under Article 64 via 17 (complicity).

Popov, counsel for Mikheyev, drew the court’s attention to the fact that his client, having heard the Procurator’s address, was smiling. This was evidence of his spiritual recovery. Under the influence of a hostile environment the defendant had assimilated ideas of formal democracy, whereas we knew democracy to be a class concept. Counsel maintained that his client did not have the particular aim of undermining or weakening Soviet authority (the existence of such an aim is required by Articles 64 and 70). His statements came within the scope of Article 190-1 of the Criminal Code, not of Article 70: at other trials similar statements about the sending of troops into Czechoslovakia had been classified under Article 190-1. Counsel asked the court to change Article 70 in the indictment to Article 190-1, and to show the defendant mercy.

Borovik, counsel for de Perregaux, described his client’s personality – his political naïveté, his kind-heartedness, his inability to refuse a request made by a friend – and asked the court to limit his punishment to the period he had spent in pre-trial detention.

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The court sentenced Mikheyev to eight years of strict-regime corrective-labour camps (with the application of Article 43 of the Russian Criminal Code – a sentence less than the minimum as reward for assistance in the investigation and for sincere remorse), and de Perregaux to three years.

Long articles about the trial have appeared in the Soviet press: in Ogonyok Nos. 34-36 [in fact: 35-37] (“The voyage of Francis de Perregaux” by L. Lerov, V. Pavlov and Yu. Chernyavsky) and in Komsomolskaya pravda of 25 and 27 August 1971 (“An exchange of butterflies” by V. Ignatenko and N. Kolesnikov).

NOTES

[2. Borovik has been provided by the Soviet authorities to defend several other foreigners in political cases, e.g. the Englishman Gerald Brooke in 1965.]

[3. A. Avtorkhanov. Tekhnologiya vlasti, Frankfurt, 1959.]

[4. Programma Demokraticheskogo Dvizheniya Sovetskogo Soyuza, Amsterdam, 1970.]