The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has ordered Russia to pay financial compensation to the independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta for violating its freedom of expression during hearings related to the publication's reporting on the sinking of the Kursk submarine in 2000.
The ECHR ruled on October 3 that Russia must pay 3,388 ($3,980) euros to the newspaper and 2,170 euros ($2,550) to its correspondent Yelena Milashina. Russia was also ordered to cover the expenses for the hearing.
The case of Novaya Gazeta and Milashina versus Russia regarded a 2005 ruling by Moscow's Basmanny District Court that obliged Novaya Gazeta to pay 50,000 rubles ($1,740 in 2005) and Milashina to pay 7,000 ($245) rubles for damaging the reputation of Russian Defense Ministry forensic expert Viktor Kalugin and his colleagues.
The ECHR decision ruled that the Russian court's decision was one-sided and contradictory to democratic principles of freedom of expression and freedom of speech.
The Novaya Gazeta reports alleged that forensic experts led by Kalugin made a wrong assessment about the cause of death of 118 crew members of the submarine, therefore assisting Russian Navy officials in escaping responsibility for what the newspaper called a failure to save the sailors.
The Russian Navy's nuclear-powered submarine Kursk sank in August 2000 during military maneuvers in the Barents Sea. Russian authorities rejected assistance to rescue the crew members that was offered by the British and Norwegian navies.
Russian officials claimed later that all crew members died immediately after an explosion occurred inside the ship.
However, several days after the Kursk sank, Norwegian and Russian divers found 24 bodies in one of the submarine's compartments and a note by Captain Lieutenant Dmitry Kolesnikov listing the names of 23 sailors who had been apparently alive when the vessel sank.