Russian Director Mirrors Kremlin Line on Magnitsky Documentary Filmed in Ukraine
21 November, 2016

✅  Hromadske journalists have found evidence how a Russian filmmaker who set out to reveal how Sergei Magnitsky was killed in 2009 actually used the project to promote the Kremlin line.

✅  Scenes from Andrei Nekrasov’s documentary were filmed in a state-controlled prison in Kyiv at the height of fighting in eastern Ukraine in 2014.

✅  One of the Ukrainian actors in the project denied knowing Nekrasov’s intentions. Yevhen Lunchenko, who played Magnitsky said ‘I did my job and everyone was satisfied with it. So?’

✅  The film ‘The Magnitsky Act: Behind the Scenes’ had several prominent European backers. A showing in the European Parliament was eventually cancelled after complaints.

Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky died seven years ago in a squalid Moscow prison. There, he was seriously ill and repeatedly punished. In the final hours, Magnitsky was put into handcuffs and beaten by eight officers, a report by then-President Medvedev’s Council on Human Rights found. Despite needing urgent medical treatment, he was denied, despite the presence of an ambulance team nearby. At that time, the 37-year-old had evidence implicating a number of government officials and policemen in a massive $230 million tax reclaim scam. In fact, some civil servants Magnitsky testified against were investigating the case.  

The Kremlin has worked to tarnish the lawyer’s name since his death. In 2012, U.S. Congress approved legislation to prevent a handful of Russian human rights violators from entering America and using its banking system. Moscow retaliated with its own blacklist for U.S. citizens. But Bill Browder, the CEO of Hermitage Capital and Magnitsky’s employer, explained in an interview with The American Interest, why Putin’s closest allies are so desperate to cancel the legislation.

“The idea that their money in the West could be put at risk, could be frozen or could be seized is so unnerving and terrifying for them that they are going to do everything possible to try to get rid of the Magnitsky Act, using whatever tools and means they can.”

Yet the latest attempt to discredit Magnitsky’s story came unexpectedly from the world of cinematography. Filmmaker Andrei Nekrasov claimed initially that he set out to make a story about Magnitsky as the victim of the Russian ‘siloviki’ system. Yet the film’s ending was completely the opposite, portraying Magnitsky and Browder as the embezzlers.

Hromadske TV conducted an investigation into why exactly the director changed his script. The full report can be found in English here and the original (in Ukrainian) here.  

According to Editor In Chief Angelina Kariakina, there were several points during the filming that suggested some Russian influence on the director.

“From what the actors were telling us, they were first shooting, for example, people who planned the scheme, meeting somewhere in the restaurant. Then, (they shot) a scene where those who planned the scheme are meeting with Magnitsky in the room - you see, the beginning and the end of the story – they were shot in the same period – so the director either knew he would come to that conclusion right at the moment when he was shooting the story or I don't know, he was digging into the story for several years...basically what he was doing on set is playing all these doubts."

The movie 'The Magnitsky Act: Behind the Scenes" was funded by the Franco-German TV network ARTE, and the Norwegian Film Institute among others. Filmmaker Andrei Nekrasov had hoped to show his documentary in the European Parliament but the screening was canceled hours before the premiere. Ms. Kariakina argues one way or another, it appeared there were efforts by Mr. Nekrasov to confuse a handful of top European political institutions and institutions on the truth about Magnitsky’s death.

“For example, he (Nekrasov) takes five or four protocols of Magnitsky's story as he was talking to police. He takes only one protocol and knocks on the doors of European MPs and he is saying, listen, everybody is saying that Magnitsky accused Russian policemen or Russian investigators like Pavel Karpov and Artem Kuznetsov in being part of this whole scheme but there is no mention of these Russian policemen (or) investigators here in this protocol. Could you point out where are those names?..People who don’t speak Russian or who don't know there are five or four other protocols look lost on camera,” Ms. Kariakina says.

The Ukrainian actors involved in filming have denied purposefully participating in a feature that followed the Kremlin’s line on Magnitsky. The fact such a movie was allowed to be filmed in a Ukrainian state prison during the height of the war in Donbas was also surprising, Ms. Kariakina argues.

Hromadske’s Nataliya Gumenyuk and Andriy Kulykov interviewed Editor-in-Chief Angelina Kariakina during the Sunday Show on November 20.