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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Quantum Justice

The last two months have been marked by a number of high-profile arrests, including those of Vladivostok Mayor Vladimir Nikolayev, former Bashkortostan Senator Igor Izmestyev and millionaire Vasily Boiko. These triumphs of justice evoke mixed emotions.

The arrests bring some satisfaction. Even Primorye's criminal elites considered Nikolayev an unsavory character. Izmestyev has been implicated as the one behind a number of grizzly murders by a group of men from Kingisepp who are in custody and awaiting trial for murder themselves. The callous nature of some of the incidents is exemplified by the case of Moscow notary public Galina Perpyolkina, who prosecutors charge Izmestyev had murdered because of what she knew about her husband's business activities.

Boiko worked as a "black raider" in the Moscow suburbs, buying up land from poor farmers. "Black raiders" only differ from "black brokers" in that they do not kill the people they swindle. Boiko contributed to the Russian Orthodox Church and participated in Project Russia, a movement to strengthen Russia's national character by reinstating the monarchy. Fleecing farmers, promoting autocracy and trying to defend the national character? I'm not sure these mix.

But, even though it's hard to feel sorry for this Winnie the Pooh (Nikolayev's nickname) when he ends up in handcuffs, it's also harder to feel good about it when you hear the whole story. Nikolayev wasn't arrested for what appears to be the less-than-legal way he gained control of Primorye's major fishing company, Turnif, or on suspicion that he was involved in the murder of one of the region's most notorious underworld figure, a man nicknamed the "Trunk."

Nikolayev was arrested for improper use of government funds in the hiring of a private security agency. The local prosecutor's office made much publicly of the fact that Nikolayev had hired a security agency to guard him, even though private security agencies are prohibited by law from acting as armed bodyguards, a prohibition people usually get around by hiring the agencies to provide some other service.

If, however, Nikolayev had been arrested on suspicion of murdering the underworld figure, the Trunk, this would have meant investigating the crime. But the Trunk had ties to Primorye Governor Sergei Darkin (who, for example, is married to his widow). It's hard to see why Darkin would want to open this can of worms by having the murder investigated at all. An investigation into allegations of the improper use of a private security agency seems more comfortable for everyone involved.

Izmestyev's arrest wasn't only preceded by the accusation of the Kingisepp gang, but also a conflict with the powerful owner of a dacha neighboring his own: President Vladimir Putin. During the course of this conflict, Izmestyev apparently irritated the president by refusing to sell his dacha at the offered price. I can't help wondering if he would be facing murder charges if he had just sold the dacha.

And while I don't see any point in shedding tears over Mr. Boiko and his fleecing of the farmers, the problem is that our would-be defender of Orthodoxy and monarchy had a partner -- Kirill Kovalchuk, who comes from a family close to Putin, but far from the public eye. If Boiko ends up being convicted, and his powerful partner does nothing to try to get him released, what should we make of that?

In classical Newtonian physics, actions precede reactions, which have to follow from actions. In classical justice systems, the crime leads to punishment, and the punishment is a consequence of the crime. But in Russia the justice system more closely resembles the uncertainty of quantum physics. If you have committed a crime, that doesn't necessarily mean you will be arrested and punished. If you are arrested and punished, this is not necessarily the result of crimes you have actually committed.

Yulia Latynina hosts a political talk show on Ekho Moskvy radio.