Yesterday we published a commentary
by RFE/RL Russian Service columnist Olga Serebryanaya about a Russian Livejournal mob that is pressuring Moscow police not to cover up an alleged hit-and-run accident that resulted in the death of a pregnant woman on May 13.
Since that piece was posted, events have continued to unfold. The driver involved in the case has been identified as Roman Zhirov, a police officer. He has not been arrested, but he “will be questioned in the capacity of a suspect,” the prosecutor’s office has said, according to Interfax. Zhirov has admitted his involvement, saying that he was sober at the time but was driving unsafely.
RFE/RL’s Russian Service today spoke with Aleksei Shumm
, the husband of the victim and the man whose post about the case on Livejournal created an Internet storm in Russia and apparently pressured police to step up the investigation into the matter.
Shumm said that he has had no direct contact from the police since the day of the accident, but that he expects to be summoned at any moment.
He said, however, that he has had word from Zhirov’s lawyers that they would like to meet with him, which Shumm has refused to do.
He expressed no surprise that Zhirov is not in custody and that police have not even questioned him yet, nearly two weeks after the tragedy. “To be honest,” he said, “I’m not very surprised. Of course, my hopes were raised somewhat when the initial reports came that there would be criminal charges, but now I understand that the case has apparently entered a new phase.
"There will be an investigative phase in which they will interpret the accident in order to find some mitigating circumstances to benefit Zhirov. That is why it is important for me now to have a lawyer who can help me work objectively and professionally in all this.”
Former State Duma Deputy Viktor Pokhmelkin, who heads the Union of Automobile Drivers of Russia, told RFE/RL it is very strange that no criminal investigation was launched until nine days after the accident.
Asked whether Zhirov’s status as a police officer might influence the case, Pokhmelkin said, “It happens all the time.”
Asked whether police might try to blame the victim for the accident, Pokhmelkin said: “There’s a good chance of that, yes. Especially if high-ranking figures get involved.”
-- Robert Coalson