Russia: Critic beats rocker in criminal case
Russian music journalist Artemy Troitsky has faced several defamation cases this year for his outspoken criticism of rock stars, politicians and policemen. Elena Vlasenko reports PLUS Russia: Chechen human rights case programme “censored”
01 Nov 11

Russian rock journalist Artemy Troitsky’s scathing criticism of rock stars, politicians and policemen has dropped him in legal hot water this year. Elena Vlasenko updates Index on his libel woes

Artemy Troitsky, an internationally-recognised music critic, has faced an onslaught of criminal and civil defamation suits this year, at one point battling five cases. In the last fortnight his luck turned, with only one of the cases still standing.

The rock critic and promoter’s trouble began in January 2011, when he was interviewed for a television documentary produced by Russian channel REN. During the interview Troitsky criticised rock star Vadim Samoylov, former front-man of band Agata Kristi, for co-operating with prime minister Vladimir Putin’s deputy Chief of Staff, Vladislav Surkov.

Surkov is seen as the architect of Russian censorship, but also dabbles in gothic rock on the side: he and Samoylov created two Agata Kristi albums together. Troitsky criticised the men’s relationship, calling Samoylov a “trained poodle for Surkov”.

In March 2011 Samoylov filed civil and criminal defamation lawsuits against Troitsky. Two months later, the court began criminal proceedings. Samoylov demanded an apology and one million roubles (20,377 GBP) in damages from Troitsky and REN.

Experts assigned to the case from the Russian Language Institute had to answer three questions: whether the “trained poodle” statement described Samoylov in a negative way; whether it was a fact or an opinion; and whether the statement was insulting to Samoylov.

A result was reached on 31 October: Troitsky’s statement was deemed critical, but not offensive. The critic expressed his opinion and had not delivered facts, as Troitsky said in court leading Samoylov to renounce his criminal lawsuit.

Meanwhile Russian musicians, journalists and activists became used to referring to Samoylov as “the trained poodle for Surkov”. They helped Troitsky raise funds to cover legal expenses by holding a concert and releasing a CD in his honour. Samoylov’s brother, and Agata Kristi co-founder, Gleb Samoylov did not back Vadim up. Gleb has recently supported actions to defend activists critical of the Kremlin.

Troitsky has also faced criminal and civil lawsuits from ex-policeman Nikolai Khovansky, who claimed Troitsky slandered him in comments he made during a concert by the band DDT in November 2010. During the concert, Troitsky handed Khovansky an anti-award for being one of “Russia’s foulest cops”.

Another linguistic examination was held and Khovansky was forced to renounce his criminal suit. Though he had been cleared of slander, Troitsky was still obliged by the court to pay ten thousand roubles in compensation.

Troitsky also faced a libel suit from Vladimir Kiselev, head of so-called charity fund Federation. Kiselev held a controversial charity concert, with the money raised being donated to sick children only after a scandal. He won a civil lawsuit against Troitsky, who was then obliged to pay Kiselev a minimal fifty kopecks’ (0.01036 GBP) compensation.

Samoylov’s civil lawsuit remains, from which he hopes can make Troitsky pay him one million roubles in compensation. But Troitsky’s attorney Vadim Prokhorov says this is unlikely after the results of the linguistic examination.

Elena Vlasenko is a news reporter based in Moscow. You can follow her on Twitter: @windprose