Former Russian Energy Executive Given 15 Years On 'Absurd' Spying Charge

By RFE/RL's Russian Service

The Moscow City Court has found Karina Tsurkan, an executive with energy holding company Inter RAO, guilty on charges of spying for Moldova, which she denies, and sentenced her to 15 years in prison.

After a hearing held behind closed doors because the case is classified, Tsurkan's defense lawyers, part of the Team 29 rights group, said on December 29 that it will appeal the decision.

"This day will undoubtedly go down in history as a black page of Russian justice. An innocent person -- and I am responsible for my words -- was given 15 years in prison," Ivan Pavlov, one of Tsurkan's lawyers, said.

"We disagree with the conviction and will appeal it.... We will do our best to get this unjust sentence overturned."

Pavlov said that Team 29 had carried out a "thorough analysis" of the evidence against Tsurkan and determined that some of it was forged.

Tsurkan was arrested in June 2019 by Russia’s main security agency, the Federal Security Service (FSB), and charged with spying for an unnamed foreign country. Tsurkan has called the charges "absurd."

State-owned Inter RAO is Russia's monopoly exporter and importer of electricity and the nation's fourth-largest producer of power.

Day-to-day operations are run by CEO Boris Kovalchuk, the son of billionaire Yury Kovalchuk, a close associate of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Inter RAO is overseen by Chairman Igor Sechin, one of the most powerful individuals in Russia.

Tsurkan’s profile on the Inter RAO website identified her as the head of the company's trading division.

At the time of her arrest, Tsurkan oversaw electricity trades in parts of Eastern Europe, including Moldova. Local media have reported that Tsurkan had links to a businessman tied to Romanian intelligence.

Tsurkan’s profile on the company website also said she was a graduate of a Moldovan university, and in 2010-2011, worked in the company’s division overseeing Moldova, Ukraine, and Romania.

The prosecution had asked the court to jail her for 18 years.