Savchenko Case – October 1 – Prosecution Witness Testimony

Savchenko in Court

Savchenko in her cage

I am using Novaya Gazeta as my source, as usual.  However, today, instead of the usual blow-by-blow timeline, they produced just a normal news story, which I proceed to translate/summarize:


Nadezhda Savchenko Recognized Two of Her Kidnappers as Witnesses For the Prosecution

Today the Prosecution began to present its technical case.

The first two witnesses for the Prosecution are residents of Voronezh who appeared in the court via videoconferencing.  Here is their version of the story:

The witness, Sergei Bobro:  He and his friend were just driving along, they were out cruising and having a good time, their destination was the town of Boguchary (Voronezh Oblast, Russia).  Later, while driving home, around 10:00 PM, near the town of Tala, while stopping at a gas station, they saw what they thought to be a man in military uniform.  They went up to “him”.  It turned out to be a woman.  She asked them, how to get to the nearest town which had a taxi or train station.  Bobro and his friend decided to drive her.  The woman said her name was Nadezhda.  She didn’t tell them what she was doing there, and they didn’t ask.  Bobro recalls, that she asked him, in Ukrainian, if he had any cigarettes.

“After about 15 or 20 minutes, as we were approaching the town of Kantemirovka of Voronezh Oblast, we were stopped by officers of the Highway Patrol and asked to show our documents.  The officer noticed that I wasn’t wearing my seatbelt.  He asked me to step out of the car, so that he could write me a ticket.  He also asked my friend and Nadezhda to show their documents.  Rudenko presented his papers, but Nadezhda told him she didn’t have her papers on her.  The officer asked us where Nadezhda was from.”

Bobro and his friend (Rudenko) were allowed to drive off, but Savchenko was detained by the Highway Patrol.  No force was used against her.  It was only later, seeing her face on television, that Bobrov realized, that this was Nadezhda Savchenko.

According to the Prosecution’s version of what happened, Savchenko had on that day, 23 June, illegally crossed the border into Russia.

However, Savchenko herself tells a completely different, and opposite, version of the same story.  According to her, for 6 days she had been in captivity (a prisoner of Separatists on the Ukrainian side of the border); this would have made it impossible for her to cross the border on her own volition.  On the contrary, she was taken across the border, into Russia, by unknown persons.  She was blindfolded.  And the gas station (near the town of Tala) was the place where her kidnappers moved her from one vehicle into another.

Defense Attorney Ilya Novikov attempted to ask Bobrov if he had any relationship to the special services; and whether he had a criminal record.  These questions were struck down, but not before Bobrov had answered in the negative.

Savchenko herself cross-examined Bobrov and asked him detailed questions, such as how long it took the Highway Patrol officer to write the ticket; what were he and Rudenko wearing at the time (“I don’t remember”), what music they were playing on the radio (“A variety”), etc.

Novikov:  “Those Highway Patrol officers who stopped you, did you know them?”

Bobrov:  “It’s possible they might have stopped me and given me tickets before.”

Novikov:  “Did you yourself contact them, when you had Savchenko in your car?”

Bobrov:  “No.”

Next, Bobrov’s friend Rudenko took the stand.  Rudenko told pretty much the same story, with a few additional details.  They had just decided to drive to Boguchary, while there they spent some time in a cafe drinking coffee; on the way home they spotted Savchenko and gave her a lift, etc.

While cross-examining these two witnesses, Savchenko remarked, that both of her kidnappers were named Sergei; and that one of them understood Ukranian, the other one not.  Turns out, that both Bobro and Rudenko are named Sergei, and that one of them knows a little Ukrainian.  However, Savchenko never saw the faces of her kidnappers:  She was blindfolded.

The next witness for the Prosecution is a man named Alexei Tertyshnikov.  This is the Highway Patrolman of the town of Kantemirovka; the one who had stopped the car and ticketed them.

Tertyshnikov:  “I didn’t like the way that car was driving.  So I stopped them, and then I saw that the driver did not have his seat belt buckled up.  I started to write them a ticket.  I verified their documents.  The woman wearing a uniform did not have any documents.  She told me she was a citizen of Ukraine; that her name was Nadezhda Viktorovna Savchenko; and she told me that she was headed for the train station.  I thought it was strange that she had no papers; all the more so, that this was a border zone.  This seemed suspicious to me.”

Tertyshnikov then contacted the officer oncall.  Next, an officer of the FSB named Pochechuev arrived on the scene, dressed in civilian clothes and driving his own car.  Tertyshnikov handed Savchenko over to him.

(Defense Attorney) Polozov on cross-examination:  “What were the driver and his friend wearing, do you remember?”

Tertyshnikov:  “They were wearing clothes.  Pants.  Jackets.  Whatever.  It didn’t matter to me, since their documents were in order.”

(Defense Attorney) Novikov objects to the court:  Tertyshnikov, like the previous two witnesses, is lying.  “What does your protocol tell you to do, when you have to stop somebody who doesn’t have documents?”

“I don’t understand the question.”

Tertyshnikov does not recall how many FSB officers came to take Savchenko.

Savchenko herself says that Tertyshnikov used a special “white phone” to call, when one set of “kidnappers” turned her over to the second set.  Defense attorneys jump onto this point, and want to ask Tertyshnikov, what color is his phone.  But the judge does not allow the question.

Eventually the Presiding Judge Leonid Stepanenko rules that Tertyshnikov’s testimony is over.  He warns the Defense that their continuous badgering of this witness could lead him to perjure himself.

Stepanenko:  “You are asking him incorrectly formed questions.  He already answered your questions.  And then you keep repeating them.  Are you trying to trip him up?

Novikov:  “But, Your Honor, there is such a thing as a competitive trial system.”

After this bickering, the witness did clarify that there is no particular protocol for how to deal with this type of situation.  He did ask the woman to identify herself.  At that very time (by coincidence), Russian army was conducting something called “Operation Anaconda”, whose goal was to stop smugglers, drug dealers, and terrorists, etc.

Defense Attorneys express interest in meeting the FSB officer who arrived at the location and took Savchenko off Tertyshnikov’s hands.  According to Tertyshnikov, the man was named Pochechuev.  He was clean-shaven, no moustache or beard, his face was shaped like a roundish oval.  In pre-trial hearing, the witness had mentioned several FSB officers; but now he insisted there was just one:  Pochechuev.  Asked to explain the discrepancy:  “At first I thought there were several of them, but then I remembered that there was just one.”

Savchenko emits emotional outburst in court:  “They treated me like a piece of cargo!  I want to know, who gave the order to transport me, and who is responsible for my kidnapping!”

Eventually, Tertyshnikov is dimissed from the stand.  Savchenko shoots a barb at him as he departs:  “Thank you for lying!”

[Court is recessed until 6 October, 11:00 AM sharp.]

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4 Responses to Savchenko Case – October 1 – Prosecution Witness Testimony

  1. PaulR says:

    Given that it seems to be pretty much Savchenko’s word against the word of a bunch of other witnesses, it doesn’t look good for Savchenko. She would have to show that they were all lying, and so far her questions and her lawyer’s questions don’t seem to have tripped the witnesses up to any great degree. I have to say, though, that the judge doesn’t come over as very fair-handed in your description. I can’t see, for instance, what was wrong with the question about the colour of the phone, and badgering prosecution witnesses is part of the defence lawyer’s job, not something to be reprimanded for. No doubt this will reinforce the view Western observers have that this is not a fair trial.


    • yalensis says:

      Dear Paul:
      I wish they would have televized the trial, I feel like I am operating half-blind here.
      During KirovLes, for example, there were daily youtube videos of all the court sessions, and one could see for oneself. Sometimes one found that one’s impression from reading the transcript is not the same as actually watching the person speak the words. The facial expressions, the body language, etc.

      Also, please keep in mind that I am using “Novaya Gazeta” as my source. This is a strongly liberal paper. They believe in Truth, Justice, and the American Way of Life. They are on Savchenko’s side. To them, Savchenko is a hero and martyr against the totalitarian Putin system. This view slants their coverage, I believe. Not that they lie, I think they are basically honest and factual, which is why I am using them; not to mention that they give so much coverage PRECISELY because they have a dog in the fight, and because this is the “trial of the century”; whereas the regular Russian media is maybe not that interested, beyond a more superficial coverage. But, given that the Novaya Gazeta correspondents cannot cover literally every second of the day, they naturally give more focus to bits of drama and things which confirm their view of an unjust system oppressing an innocent freedom-fighter. For example, they will remark that a Prosecution witness is “sweating”, and take special note of any slip-ups on the other side.

      Having said that, I tend to believe Nadia’s story, that she was kidnapped and brought across the border. In other words, I believe that she is innocent of that particular charge (=crossing the border illegally). Why do I believe that? I don’t have any facts, I just tend to believe that her story makes more sense than the story told by the other side. (For starters: two young bucks taking a joy ride to a neighboring town so that they can sit in a cafe and DRINK COFFEE? Gimme a break!)

      But, like you say, the other side tells a cohesive enough story. The joyride, the Highway Patrol trooper stopping them to write up a ticket, etc.. If it is a lie, it is a well-concocted lie. And the panel of judges, whatever their personal suspicions, are required by Russian law itself to give the Prosecution the benefit of the doubt. This being, as I have remarked elsewhere, a Napoleonic legal code, in which the defendant is considered GUILTY unless proven innocent; and in which the police and criminal justice system are given the benefit of the doubt, unless they really screw their case up! Russia, along with Ukraine, France, and several other European countries, have this type of system, and it is what it is. In a system like this, the acquittal rate is statistically very low. Therefore, Savchenko is pretty much toast unless, like I said, the prosecution slips up badly.


  2. marknesop says:

    First of all, I have to say that the tiny woman in the blue shirt should be careful not to come too close to the giant Savchenko, who could snatch her and eat her whole before the even-bigger giant guard could intervene. Perhaps she should perform her court duties from the back of the room where Gargantuachenko cannot reach her.

    I don’t believe Savchenko, simply because she is such a Maidanite zealot and because of her defense team’s previous record of coaching its clients in believable cover-story lies. She seemed to be constantly looking for new thrills and new ways to help the war, and it seems perfectly credible to me that she would try to enter Russia itself, although to do what is harder to imagine. I don’t think she is entirely right in the head. But when you think about it, her deadly-accurate recollections of both men being named Sergei and one being able to speak a little Ukrainian, while Novaya Gazeta is spinning it as evidence of her credibility, could as easily have resulted from the scenario the prosecution describes as the one Savchenko describes – she has merely transferred the details to her cover story. In fact, it is more believable that the conversation described occurred in a car while she was riding with a couple of strangers who picked her up – is it customary for a prisoner to be casually chatting with her captors, and for them to tell her their names? She’d have a bag over her head and be told to shut up.

    But – sigh – the court is indeed handling it clumsily, even if Novaya Gazeta is stretching it a little. Everything should be completely transparent, although there would be no harm in the judge admonishing the defense to stop grandstanding and playing to the gallery.

    Thanks for providing this service, it is great to be able to follow the trial!


    • yalensis says:

      Thanks, Mark!
      Yes, you make a good point, that the Prosecution’s story is just as plausible as Savchenko’s. I guess it’s a toss-up, and, like I mentioned to Paul, under the Russian legal system, the judges have to give the benefit of the doubt to the Prosecution.
      Let’s assume for the sake of argument, that Savchenko did cross over into Russia of her own volition. There are 2 theories about why she might have done that:
      (1) Planning some kind of operation of terrorist attack; or
      (2) [more plausible]: She got separated from the unit, and her only escape out of the cauldron was over the border.

      I think (2) is the more plausible; although I still lean to HER side of the story; that she was captured and brought to Russia for trial. But I don’t have any facts to support that, it’s just a hunch, and my hunch is no better than anybody else’s.


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