By Oksana Yablokova
Ivannikova receiving the cash from an official of the ultranationalist DPNI.
Alexandra Ivannikova, whose conviction in the killing of a gypsy cab driver who she said tried to rape her was recently overturned, has received a 50,000-ruble ($1,700) award from an ultranationalist group that hailed her actions as an example of bravery.
In December 2003, Ivannikova, 29, stabbed Sergei Bagdasaryan, 23, an ethnic Armenian, in the thigh with a knife after waving down his car for a ride. The knife struck Bagdasaryan in an artery, and he was dead by the time police arrived at the scene.
During her trial, Ivannikova received support from human rights advocates, who said the trial was a test case on the right to self-defense, as well as from nationalist groups, whose campaign focused on Bagdasaryan’s ethnicity.
On July 12, Ivannikova was invited to the three-year anniversary celebration of the Movement Against Illegal Immigration and awarded 50,000 rubles ($1,700) in a stack of 100-ruble bills wrapped with a ribbon and a bow.
Ivannikova also received flowers and a long ovation from the audience, said Alexander Belov, a spokesman for the group, whose Russian acronym is DPNI.
Belov said that DPNI had supported Ivannikova during her trial and that the group’s supporters had voluntarily donated money to her. They had started collecting money before the end of the trial and wanted to give her husband the money so he would have money to pay the lawyers, he said.
“One should not think that we rewarded her for killing an Armenian. However, we thought that she deserved an award for having committed such a brave act, and she has gone through a lot of suffering,” Belov said by telephone Wednesday.
Belov said he was not sure that the DPNI would have supported Ivannikova so actively or given her the cash award if she had killed a Russian or Slavic man. “I personally might, but I am not sure that other people would have been willing to donate so much money,” he said.
Through her husband, Ivannikova declined to comment on the award, saying that she had grown tired of being interviewed by the media in recent weeks.
Ivannikova’s lawyer Alexei Parshin said that she had arrived at the DPNI ceremony not knowing that she would receive the award, Izvestia newspaper reported Wednesday. Parshin said he did not know she was going to the event.
During the trial, Parshin distanced Ivannikova from the position of ultranationalist groups, including DPNI, that rallied in her defense outside the court.
Yevgeny Ikhlov of the For Human Rights group, which also supported Ivannikova during her trial, criticized her for accepting the DPNI’s award.
“It could be explained if she accepted compensation for her suffering from an NGO. But she actually took the reward for murder, not to mention who gave her this money,” Ikhlov said, adding that Ivannikova would most likely be acquitted in a new trial as the City Prosecutor’s Office has said it would not take part.
Ivannikova’s acceptance of the award “will seriously complicate the defense strategy of other people standing trial in similar cases,” Ikhlov said.
Last month, the Lyublinsky District Court found Ivannikova guilty of murder and gave her a two-year suspended sentence. District prosecutors had sought a three-year prison sentence.
The Moscow City Prosecutor’s Office then intervened and recommended that the verdict be reviewed, contradicting the position of the prosecutor on the case. On July 4, the Moscow City Court overturned Ivannikova’s murder conviction on the grounds of self-defense. However, the court agreed with a request by Bagdasaryan’s father that the case be retried.
Ivannikova’s initial conviction was widely criticized by human rights advocates, including government ombudsman Vladimir Lukin. The case was also discussed on a political talk show on NTV television.