Yuri Dmitrijev, who had a reputation as a self-taught historian, was sentenced in Petrozavodsk on Wednesday to 3.5 years in prison for “violent sexual acts” against his minor foster daughter.

The verdict immediately provoked relieved reactions, as it is considerably shorter than the 15-year prison camp sentence demanded by the prosecutor.

Dmitrijev's lawyer Viktor Anufrijev commented after the hearing, saying that his principal also "welcomed" the verdict.

However, Anufrijev clarified immediately afterwards that a positive attitude does not mean admitting guilt or acknowledging the correctness of the verdict.

- We have not yet taken a position on the legality or fairness of the verdict. The positive attitude is due to the fact that the most important thing for us in this process was that Yuri Alexeyevich would not die in a prison camp, Anufrijev stressed according to Stolitsa na Onego.

Dmitrijev is 64 years old, so the 15-year prison sentence demanded by the prosecutor in a harsh disciplinary camp would have meant practically the same to him as the death sentence - that is, to spend the rest of his life in prison.

Yuri Dmitrijev will be transported back to prison after the verdict is announced.

Photo: ANTON VAGANOV

Throughout the trial, Dmitrijev maintained his position that he had done no harm to his adopted daughter and had not committed any sexual acts against her.

Indeed, the court dismissed the charges against Dmitrijev for alleged child pornography and lewdness, which was also one of the positive surprises in the trial.

According to statistics, prosecutors are rarely left in Russia with demands and full acquittals are extremely rare, so in that sense, Dmitrijev's 3.5-year sentence can be considered surprisingly mild.

Dmitrijev had taken regular photos of his naked stepdaughter when he was little and stored them on his own computer in a folder called “Health”. He had not sent pictures to outsiders, but said he wanted to document the physical development of the sick skinny daughter in case she should prove the daughter’s health had improved in her care.

It was these images that the prosecutor claimed to be child pornography, but now the court dismissed all charges for the photographs.

The alleged “violent sexual acts” attributed to Dmitrijev, in turn, are related to the fact that during re-interrogations, the adopted daughter had told her that the father had touched her a few times from the branches.

Dmitrijev did not deny the touch, but he said it was all about the daughter’s night watering and following this pee problem.

According to Dmitrijev, the daughter, who had come from difficult circumstances, initially had problems with urinary incontinence. This was treated due to nocturnal irrigation in a hospital in Petrozavodsk, as evidenced by a medical report and a medical report.

When the problem was followed, Dmitrijev said he noticed a pee odor a few times while taking the girl in his arms. In this situation, she had tried it by hand or made sure of the clothes by looking to see if the child’s pants were wet, after which she had taken this for washing.

The stepdaughter's account of the touch came into the charges only in the summer of 2018, when a new trial was initiated against Dmitrijev.

According to Novaya Gazeta, according to expert assessments commissioned by the defense, the interrogators appear to have guided and pressured the girl with her own questions, prompting her to tell about the touch that has since been termed a “violent sexual act”.

Yuri Dmitrijev photographed in April 2018 in Petrozavodsk, when his acquittal, which was subsequently overturned at high speed, was announced.

Photo: Arja Paananen

The International Memorial issued a very critical statement on the Dmitrijev verdict, drawing attention to both the inconsistency and the injustice of the verdict.

- Despite the apparent leniency of the verdict - if compared to the 15 years required by the prosecutor - the verdict is not fair, Memorial says in a statement.

- The complete unfoundedness of the charges was obvious from the outset. And when such a (= Russian-short) conviction of such a serious charge is handed down, it tells one thing: the prosecutor has no evidence of Dmitrijev's actual perpetration of violent sexual acts against his minor stepdaughter, Memorial concludes in a statement.

Dmitrijev's verdict is also noteworthy for the fact that the sentence was defined as slightly longer than the time of his pre-trial detention. The end result is therefore that he does not have to be reimbursed for his time in pre-trial detention, which would also be very exceptional in the Russian judiciary.

Dmitrijev was the head of the Karelian branch of the Memorial to the Political Persecution and Terror of Joseph Stalin when the criminal trial against him was launched in 2016.

According to one theory, the lawsuit is based on the desire of the Russian authorities to destroy not only Dmitrijev's work but also the reputation of the entire Memorial organization. Part of the work of Memorial has already been declared a so-called “foreign agent” in Russia.

The Memorial bulletin also recalls that not only Dmitrijev but also his foster daughter is the victim of a long-running legal process.

- In any case, these charges have already taken Yuri Dmitrijev's freedom for four years and crippled the life of his adopted daughter.

  • Read more: 3.5-year sentence for Sandarmoh researcher - Dmitrijev will be released already in the autumn

Lawyer Anufrijev calculated after the verdict that Dmitrijev would be released in November.

- When it counts exactly, he has three and a half months left. So sometimes around November 12th we can take him to freedom if we are healthy and alive, Anufrijev said.

- Unless something changes happen by then, Anufrijev, accustomed to many surprises of the Russian judiciary, added.