On June 27-28, the Supreme Court of the Crimea interrogated witness Zaur Smirnov in the framework of Akhtem Chiygoz’s case. Before the annexation, he was a Medjlis member, and after 2014 he joined the Russian government of the Crimea, where he headed the Committee on Interethnic Relations and Deported Citizens.
Smirnov’s testimony mainly referred to the events of February 25, in particular, the meeting of the Medjlis where they had taken the decision to hold a demonstration outside the Supreme Council of the Crimea.
Zaur Smirnov is the fourth by order Crimean politician who testified in the case of Akhtem Chiygoz. Before him, the court interrogated Sergey Aksionov, Sergey Tsekov and Olga Kovitidi.
Under the plea of QirimInfo, Radio Liberty’s correspondent Anton Naumliuk told about the interrogation of Zaur Smirnov in detail. In turn, the Medjlis head told which tasks he had given to Smirnov the day before the demonstration.
This was the third attempt to interrogate Zaur Smirnov as a witness, this time a successful one. Unlike [former member of the Supreme Council of the Crimea Olga] Kovitidi and [former deputy head of the Supreme Council of the Crimea Sergey] Tsekov, who now represent the federal authorities, he arrived with the guards. Young men, of Caucasian appearance for some reason, all in plain clothes, accompanied him all the time. This is a sort of a specific feature of the Crimean authorities , [Russian head of the Crimea Sergey] Aksionov also came with many bodyguards. Apparently, it’s a buzz-bug they have about personal security.
In general, Smirnov’s interrogation could be shortened to three phrazes: «I don’t know», «I don’t remember» and «I don’t have this information». In fact, this is the way he answered to all the questions he was asked.
The main focus was on the events of February 25. Mainly, on the meeting of the Medjlis, where they handled the issue of holding a demonstration on the following day outside the building of the Supreme Council of the Crimea. According to Smirnov, head of the Medjlis Refat Chubarov took the decision personally. Herein, there was even no voting among the Medjlis members, just the people got together, and Chubarov explained it was needed to hold a demonstration. The aim of the demonstration was to prevent holding of the session of the Supreme Council of the Crimea.
According to Smirnov’s testimony, Chubarov explained that the session was to take the decisions which could be harmful and dangerous for the Crimean Tatars, and the residents of the Crimea on the whole. Apparently, this refers to the attempt to hold a session at which they wanted to raise the issue on dismissal of Anatolii Mohilev and on conducting a referendum.
However, Smirnov claimed during the interrogation he hadn’t known the exact agenda of the Supreme Council, and, moreover, doesn’t know it now. Then again, according to him, Akhtem Chiygoz was made in charge of organization of the demonstration. If his words are to be trusted, it becomes unclear what role he played in those days.
Keeping his words in mind, it turns out he did nothing at all. Moreover, he claims he was the only participant of the Medjlis meeting who stood against holding of the demonstration. It is not very clear from the testimony, what Smirnov did in the framework of his official duties. He was authorized to perform the function of interaction with the authorities and the deputy corpus. This is how he explained his presence at the demonstration.
According to him, Chubarov took him to the building of the Supreme Council. Chubarov stayed in the reception office of Konstantynov practically all the time, he communicated with the deputies there. Smirnov allegedly stood in the corridor, having heard or seen none of those talks. In fact, he said nothing at the interrogation.
In general, the witnesses in this case have two positions. The first one is memory loss. The second one is when a person says something which is not confirmed by either documents, or video materials, or other witnesses’ testimonies. Smirnov had a classical #1 case: «I remember nothing», «I don’t know».
It is clear that a long time has passed, and he obviously didn’t want to honestly tell about his role on that day. However, on the other hand, he could have referred to Article 51 of the Constitution of the Russian Federation, if the questions referred to him personally.
Certain indictment in his testimony was traced. Not against Chiygoz, however, but with regard to Chubarov and the Medjlis in general. For example, he told he wanted to legitimate the Medjlis after the annexation, to register it legally. As, then again, according to him, the Medjlis was in the underground until 2013.
Chubarov on Smirnov’s role in the organization of the demonstration:
On February 25, Smirnov stayed beside me all the time. On that day, I was in the Supreme Council of the Crimea, where I tried to convince its board to take no decisions at the extra-ordinary session. We didn’t stand strenuously for the dismissal of Mohilev, but we said the issue of some other person’s appointment to his post could be solved, and this should have been coordinated with the president, or, at that moment, acting president. When I gathered the Medjlis under the request of some of its members, I tasked Zaur Smirnov to contact the representatives of the Interior Ministry of the Crimea and, if needed, with the SBU officers. He received a very precise instruction – to discuss the issues of the public order protection, and settle down the aspect of distribution of the protesters in the square. When we finished the session of the Medjlis in the evening, I saw with my own eyes how Smirnov was discussing my instructions with the police officers near the Medjlis office. Later that night we contacted by phone, and he reported on the work done. During the night we called each other several more times and discussed the details of the demonstration.
Two members of the Medjlis stood against holding of the demonstration, or rather doubted the reasonability of conducting of the demonstration on that very day exactly in the square near the Supreme Council building. However, Zaur Smirnov wasn’t one of them.
He had long wanted to become a member of the Medjlis and occupy significant posts there, not just wanted but did many things to achieve that. During the latest election to the Medjlis, he persuaded the Kurultay delegates to vote for him. I know this because he asked me for support. Unfortunately, he received it. If he believes the activity of the Medjlis was underground and illegal, why did he want to get there so desperately?