The Leningrad Trial of the “Hijackers”, 15-24 December 1971 (17.6)

«No 17 : 31 December 1971»

The trial of M.Yu. Dymshits, E. S. Kuznetsov, S.I. Zalmanson, J.M. Mendelevich, I.I. Zalmanson, Yu.P. Fyodorov, A.G. Murzhenko, A.A. Altman, L.G. Khnokh, B.S. Penson and M. A. Bodnya was held in the Leningrad City Court on 15-24 December 1970.

The court consisted of N. A. Yermakov, chairman of the Leningrad City Court (presiding); S.E. Solovyov, Procurator of Leningrad, and N. Katukova (prosecutors), and Matanogov , a civil aviation pilot (citizen prosecutor).

The defendants were accused of committing crimes which come under the following articles of the RSFSR Criminal Code:

  1. Article 64-a: Betrayal of the Motherland, i.e. actions deliberately committed by a citizen of the USSR to the detriment of its national independence, territorial integrity and military might…
  2. Article 15: Responsibility for the preparation of a crime and for attempting one.
  3. Article 70: Anti-Soviet agitation and propaganda, i.e. agitation and propaganda carried out with the aim of undermining or weakening Soviet authority, or the commission of especially dangerous state crimes…
  4. Article 93-1: Theft of state or public property on an especially large scale.

The trial took place in a room accommodating 300 people. Of these only 20 to 30 were relatives of the defendants, who were admitted in accordance with a list. The remainder entered with special passes. Outside the court-house there were many policemen, who moved on persons wishing to get in to the trial. The mood of the people in the court-room was hostile towards the defendants. During the recess the opinion was expressed that “they should all be hanged”. In the issue of Leningradskaya pravda which appeared on the day after the beginning of the trial the defendants were already called criminals.

According to the charges the accused wished to use a twelve-seater AN-2 type passenger plane, on a regular route Leningrad-Priozyorsk, to fly to Sweden [CCE 14.11, item 3].

Defendants M.Yu. Dymshits, S.I. Zalmanson, I.I. Zalmanson, B.S. Penson and M.A. Bodnya pleaded guilty. Defendants J.M. Mendelevich, E.S. Kuznetsov, A.A. Altman, A.G. Murzhenko and L.G. Khnokh pleaded guilty only in part. Defendant Yu.P. Fyodorov, in answer to the question “Do you plead guilty or not guilty?” replied: “Not to these charges.”

leningrad trial (nine).jpg

Eight of the 11 defendants: top row (left to right) Dymshits, Kuznetsov, Mendelevich and Federov; bottom row (left to right) Murzhenko, Knokh, Altman and Penson

Of the eleven defendants, nine (all except Murzhenko and Fyodorov) testified that the sole purpose of their intended seizure of the aeroplane was to get to Israel. S.I. Zalmanson and her husband E.S. Kuznetsov, J.M. Mendelevich, A.A. Altman, B.S. Penson and M.A. Bodnya had repeatedly tried through official channels to emigrate to Israel, but either this was refused by OVIR [Department of Visas and Registrations] or they were refused testimonials at work, without which OVIR does not accept applications.

The following facts emerged from the questioning of the defendants:

Mark Dymshits (b. 1927), was a member of the Communist Party until his arrest, after which he was expelled. After graduating from flying school he served in the Air Force. He was demobilised in 1960. Unable to find work in his speciality in Leningrad, where his family lived, he went to Bukhara in Uzbekistan, where he served in civil aviation for two years. On returning to Leningrad he entered the Agricultural Institute. After graduating he worked as an engineer. Mark Dymshits stated that he could not give his children a Jewish upbringing in the USSR.

Silva Zalmanson (b. 1943), lived in Riga and worked as an engineer. In January 1970 she married E. S. Kuznetsov. She confirmed that she had re-typed the first issue of the [samizdat] journal Iton.

Eduard Samoilovich Kuznetsov (b. 1939). In 1960 he passed the entrance examination for the Philosophy Faculty of Moscow University with flying colours. He was arrested when in the second year of his studies, and in 1961 he was sentenced to seven years under Article 70. In a Mordovian camp he was tried by the camp administration and spent half his term in a cell in Vladimir prison, together with Igor Ogurtsov [a young Leningrad Orientalist, CCE 1.6]. After his release in 1968 he lived under open surveillance in Strunino in the Vladimir Region. Following his marriage to S. Zalmanson he moved to Riga, where he worked in a hospital.

Izrail Zalmanson (b. 1949), brother of Silva Zalmanson. He was the youngest of the defendants. A student of the Riga Polytechnic Institute, he passed all the fourth-year examinations in June 1970.

Joseph Mendelevich is 23. He was a student at the Riga Polytechnic Institute, but left during his third year, regarding it as not quite moral to study on Soviet money when he had set himself the aim of getting to Israel. After leaving the Institute he worked as a watchman.

J. Mendelevich taught himself Yiddish and Modern Hebrew and studied Jewish history and religion. He and his family repeatedly applied to emigrate to Israel, but they were invariably refused. He sent petitions to the first secretary of the Latvian communist Party, to the USSR Minister of Internal Affairs and to Brezhnev. Kaiya, head of the Riga OVIR, told him in one of their Conversations: “You’ll never be allowed to emigrate, you’ll rot here, now get out!” When asked by the Procurator how he could exchange a socialist system for a capitalist one, Joseph replied that he was indifferent to social structure, as he was to his material circumstances. Mendelevich admitted taking part in the publication of the historical and literary journal Iton. He did not consider his literary activities to be criminal. When asked by the Procurator whether he regarded himself as a “Zionist” or as a “person of Jewish origin”, J. Mendelevich replied: “I’m not a person of Jewish origin, I’m a Jew.”

Alexei Murzhenko (b. 1942), lived and worked in Lozovaya [in the Kharkov Region] and had been studying for an external degree. As a reason for his participation [in the hi-jack plan] Murzhenko put forward the unsatisfactory state of his personal life (he had failed to get into an institute and had an unhappy family life).

Yury Fyodorov (b. 1943), a Muscovite. He worked as a general labourer. As motives for his participation [in the hijack plan] his defence counsel Toropova indicated the deeply psychopathological state of his personality and his persecution complex. An out-patient psychiatric examination had given the following diagnosis of Yu.P. Fyodorov’s state of health: “He is of sound mind, but has a psychopathic personality and a persecution complex; however the illness has not reached a sufficient stage to render him of unsound mind.” Fyodorov and Murzhenko had previously been convicted (in 1962) under Articles 70 and 72 of the Russian Criminal Code.

Anatoly Altman, aged 29, was born in Chernovtsy [West Ukraine]. As a child he used to go to the synagogue and the Jewish theatre with his parents. He was interested in philosophy, Jewish history and Judaism. He studied geography, but left [before completing the course]. He worked as a joiner. He submitted his documents to OVIR with a request for permission to emigrate to Israel, but this was refused.

Altman admitted typing the first and second issues of the journal Iton. He considered the content of these journals to be aimed purely at national cultural enlightenment, but they were not at all anti-Soviet.

Ara (Leib) Khnokh (b. 1944). He is a worker. The family in which A. Khnokh was brought up spoke Hebrew and observed all [Jewish] traditions and feasts. He considered that the future of the Jews as a nation lay only in Israel. He submitted an application to OVIR, but this was refused. One of the OVIR officials told him that he was too young and would not be allowed to emigrate. He considered that refusal to allow Jews to emigrate to Israel was a violation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. He was the co-author of letters to Kosygin, the secretaries of [foreign] Communist Parties and U Thant, but was certain that these letters contained nothing slanderous or anti-Soviet. His only work was “Our native tongue”, which was written with the aim of showing the Soviet government that the number of Jews in the USSR had not diminished, and that it was time to recognise this fact and open Jewish schools and theatres.

At this point the Procurator retorted in a jeering voice: “He thought schools and theatres would be opened for them.” Khnokh stated that during the investigation his evidence had been distorted by the investigator, and that to uphold his evidence had required great strength. He had finally been unable to endure this and had signed a record of evidence which he had not given. He had not been permitted to write his evidence himself. Evidence given by the others had only been shown to him selectively. Khnokh stated that he regarded Israel as his Motherland, while in the USSR he had only the rights of a prisoner, since he was deprived of the right of a free man to choose his place of residence for himself. Khnokh did not reply to questions unconnected with the trial (e.g. about Ruta Alexandrovich [CCE 16.10, item 12]). Defence counsel reminded the court of the regulation giving Khnokh this right (Article 46 of the Russian Code of Criminal Procedure), but the Procurator insistently demanded answers to all his questions.

Boris Penson was born in 1947. He has close relatives in Israel. He is an artist. He has one previous conviction (for being present at a multiple rape).

Mendel Bodnya was born in 1937. He lost contact with his mother and brother in the war, but learned during the fifties that they were in Israel. He was a metal-worker, but on becoming disabled he received a pension.


As the judicial investigation showed, the originator of the plan to hijack an aeroplane was M. Yu. Dymshits. In 1967 or 1968 Dymshits decided to leave the Soviet Union clandestinely and began to seek others similarly inclined. In March 1970 he was joined by S. I. Zalmanson and E. S. Kuznetsov. At the beginning of April, at his wife’s request, Kuznetsov talked to her younger brother Izrail, who also agreed to escape. In May Silva discussed the plan with her other brother, Lieutenant Vulf Zalmanson, who had arrived from his military unit; he also agreed. In Moscow, in the middle of April, Kuznetsov invited Yu. P. Fyodorov to join them, and Fyodorov invited A. G. Murzhenko. In Leningrad and Riga several alternative plans for hi-jacking an aeroplane were discussed.

In the course of these discussions Izrail’s views were sought. Izrail categorically opposed the hi-jacking of an aeroplane. Dymshits‘ friends began to try to talk him out of his plans. He continued to devise various alternative methods.

On June 5 Dymshits produced a plan for hi-jacking an AN-2 twelve-seater passenger aeroplane, flying from Leningrad to Priozyorsk, to Sweden. It was intended to pick up part of the group in Priozyorsk and leave the crew there tied up. The group awaiting the aeroplane in Priozyorsk took sleeping-bags for the crew; they were also to prepare awnings, under which the bound crew-men would have been placed. On June 8 Dymshits, Kuznetsov and Fyodorov flew along the selected route.

The weapons which the accused had with them consisted of one pistol and sixteen truncheons. The pistol was incapable of firing, as was shown by an expert examination. Dymshits, too, knew of this. During the flight on June 8 he told Fyodorov. Fyodorov had brought the pistol with him only to frighten the crew.

At the trial all the accused, without hesitation, related all the circumstances and all the factual aspects of the case, They resolutely denied that they had intended to inflict harm on the USSR, and thus regarded the charge under Article 64 as unjust. In addition all the accused categorically rejected the very idea that they wished to steal the aeroplane. They had intended to use it solely as a means of transport. Thus they regarded the charge under Article 93-1 as entirely unjustified.

23 witnesses were called at the trial, including Gilel Butman, Mikhail Korenblit and Lev Korenblit (both accused in the second [forthcoming Jewish] Leningrad trial), Boris Maftser and Aron Shpilberg (both accused in the Riga trial now in preparation) and the pilot of the aeroplane, who said that in fact the aeroplane was worth 35,000 roubles, and not 64,000 as the prosecution had alleged.

Witness Butman stated that he and Dymshits had wished to direct the attention of world public opinion to the fact that many of the Jews in the USSR wished to emigrate to Israel, and that the Jews who spoke at the press-conference in Moscow on 4 March [1970] did not express the opinions of all Jews (at this point the Procurator cut the witness short).

In his address the prosecutor devoted much attention to the “machinations of international Zionism”, and said that in the USSR there was no Jewish problem and could never be one.

“There are those who say that this trial is against the Jews, but that is untrue. This trial is not about Jews. It is a criminal trial in which the majority of the criminals are Jews. But I do not consider Kuznetsov to be a Jew. I consider that Kuznetsov is a Russian. I consider that this is a trial of a group, and that the court must base its decision not on the charges brought against each person individually, but on their totality.”

Procurator Solovyov indicated that the defendant Bodnya had shown genuine remorse. In his opinion Bodnya, unlike the other defendants, had no anti-Soviet beliefs. In conclusion the prosecutor said:

“I regard the motives for the actions of all the accused except Bodnya as anti-Soviet. I ask that all the accused except Bodnya be found guilty under Articles 64 via 15, 93-1 via 15, 70 and 72. As for Bodnya – taking into consideration his honest remorse, his sincerity and frankness, and also his personal motives for the crime, I ask that he be found guilty under Article 83 (illegally crossing the frontier) and 93-1.1 request the court to apply Article 43 of the Russian Criminal Code (fixing a more lenient penalty than is prescribed by law) in Bodnya’s case.”

Procurator Solovyov demanded that Kuznetsov, Fyodorov and Murzhenko be judged to be especially dangerous recidivists; that Kuznetsov and Dymshits be sentenced to the supreme penalty – death, that Fyodorov be sentenced to fifteen years of special-regime [camps], Murzhenko to fourteen years of special-regime, Mendelevich to fifteen years of strict-regime, Khnokh to thirteen years of strict-regime, I. Zalmanson, Altman and Penson to twelve years of strict-regime, S. Zalmanson to ten years of strict-regime and Bodnya to five years of hard-regime.

All the defence counsels stated that Article 93-1 was completely inapplicable to the actions of their clients, since the accused had clearly not intended to steal the aeroplane. Drozdov, S. Zalmanson’s defence counsel, asked that the charge under Article 93-1 be deleted, while all the other defence counsels asked that Article 93-1 be changed to Article 91 (a raid aimed at the seizure of state or public property).

Defence counsels [S.L.] Ariya, Ilina, Lesko, Toropova, Sarri and Svistunov (defending Mendelevich, I. Zalmanson, Altman, Fyodorov, Murzhenko, Khnokh and Bodnya) pointed out that their clients had had no direct intention of undermining the might of the Soviet Union or damaging its external security, and that without such direct intention there could be no question of applying Article 64. Mendelevich‘s defence counsel Ariya said: “Since 1968 my client has had the clear-cut desire to emigrate to Israel, which he mistakenly regards as his Motherland … And if Mendelevich had escaped to Israel to pray to his God, and possibly even to revile the USSR, that could not have damaged our external security.”

Defence counsels for S. Zalmanson, Mendelevich, I. Zalmanson, Altman and Khnokh considered that the actions of their clients, for which they had been charged under Article 70, had been incorrectly assessed. Defence counsel Sarri, for Khnokh, said: “It is absurd to think that the Soviet political system could be weakened by the circulation of such documents as ‘Nehama has arrived‘[1], and ‘Our native tongue’, and even less so by their possession.” The motives leading Altman to take part in the publication of the journal Iton (the journal was about life in Israel and its history – only two issues appeared) were not regarded by his defence counsel Lesko as anti-Soviet. For all these reasons defence counsels for S. Zalmanson, Mendelevich, I. Zalmanson, Altman and Khnokh asked that Article 70 in the charge be changed to Article 190-1. Murzhenko’s defence counsel Ilina drew the attention of the court to the fact that the prosecution had not given any evidence that her client held anti-Soviet beliefs, apart from his previous conviction. Fyodorov’s defence counsel Toropova said the same thing.

Defence counsels asked that extenuating circumstances be taken into consideration.

Defence counsel Luri, for Kuznetsov, drew the attention of the Court to the words spoken by his client to Bodnya: they must try to avoid violence, not a hair of the crew’s heads must be harmed. “Therefore,” stated Luri, “the charge that they intended to jeopardize the lives of the crew must be deleted.” On the subject of the exceptional penalty demanded by the prosecutor, Luri said: “Is it necessary to impose this penalty if the crime has not been committed, if thanks to the organs of state security the aeroplane is still here and the crew in good health? I think that such an exceptional penalty cannot be imposed.”

The defendants delivered their final addresses:

M. Yu. Dymshits: “Obviously any criminal will regard his punishment as too severe. Yet I still wish to express my opinion about the penalty which is being proposed. I consider the Procurator’s demands to be excessively cruel. The Procurator has often used the word ‘if. He has, I think, exhausted his entire stock of the most frightful hypotheses. If we had landed in Finland and been handed over [back to the USSR], what then? … If there had been passengers? I am not a liberal, and I well understand the meaning of the word ‘struggle’. You need such severe penalties as a deterrent, I myself put forward the first plan, but we ourselves rejected it. The citizen prosecutor spoke on behalf of the crew. It is unfortunate that he was not accompanied by the people from the personnel department to whom I unsuccessfully applied for work. They could have stopped me – until the autumn of 1969, but after that only the KGB could have stopped me. We, the group of defendants, are people with differing characters. Many of us made each other’s acquaintance only in the last days. It is gratifying that even here we have not lost our humanity and started to eat each other like spiders in a jam-jar. I thank the [security] organs for the humanity they have shown towards my wife and daughter. I ask the court to treat me justly and humanely.”

Silva Zalmanson: “I cannot seem to come to my senses … I am stunned by the sentences demanded for us by the Procurator. He has just proposed execution for a crime that has not been committed. If the court agrees, then two such remarkable people as Dymshits and Kuznetsov will die. I consider that Soviet law should not regard someone’s intention to live in another country as treason, and I am convinced that it is those who unlawfully trample on our right to live where we wish who should have been put on trial. Let the court at least take account of the fact that if we had been allowed to emigrate, there would never have been this ‘criminal conspiracy’, which has brought such agony to us . . . and even more to our relatives. Israel is a country with which we, the Jews, are linked spiritually and historically. I hope the government of the USSR will soon resolve this question in a positive way. We shall never lose the dream of joining our ancient motherland. Several of us did not believe our enterprise would succeed, or hardly believed it. We noticed we were being followed at the Finland Station [the Leningrad railway station from which they left for the airport], but we could no longer turn back. We could not return to the past, to the waiting, to living out of suitcases. Our fear of the suffering which might be inflicted on us was nothing in comparison with our dream of living in Israel. We were doing no-one any harm by leaving. I wanted to live there as a family and to work. I would not have indulged in politics. My interest in politics extends only as far as my desire to emigrate. Even now I do not doubt for a minute that one day I shall live in Israel. This dream, sanctified by two thousand years of hope, will never leave me. Next year in Jerusalem! Even now I repeat:

If I forget thee, Jerusalem, Let my right hand wither! (She repeats these words in Hebrew. The Procurator cuts her off.)

I have nothing more to say.”

Joseph Mendelevich: “I should like to tell you that I regard my actions, aimed at seizing an aeroplane and violating the state frontier, as criminal. But I am also guilty of allowing myself to be indiscriminate in selecting a method of realising my dream. These last six months have taught me that the emotions must be subordinated to reason. I understand that I must be punished, and I urge the court to be magnanimous towards my comrades.”

Eduard Kuznetsov: “The state prosecutor assumes from the outset that once abroad I would have engaged in activities hostile to the Soviet Union. He bases this on what he claims to be my anti-Soviet beliefs, which I have never in fact expressed. I had no intention of harming the Soviet Union. I wished only to live in Israel. I did not regard a possible request for political asylum as a hostile political act. Incorrect statements are made about this in the charge. I have not expressed the wish to speak at any press-conference, neither have I discussed this question with anyone. Without going into the various reasons why I had no such intentions, I shall say only that my ironical cast of mind has insured me against political speeches of any kind. I sincerely regret that I agreed to take part in this business, and consider myself only partially guilty under Article 64-a (via 15) and Article 72 of the Russian Criminal Code. I ask the court to be lenient towards my wife Silva Zalmanson. I also ask for justice for myself. After all, you only live once.”

Izrail Zalmanson: “The only thing that led me to do this was the desire to live and work in the state of Israel – my spiritual motherland. This desire had become my main aim in life. During the investigation I have understood the mistakenness of my act. I wish to assure you that in future nothing will make me break the law.”

Alexei Murzhenko: ‘”Before talking of myself, I ask the court to be lenient towards Kuznetsov and Dymshits.

“I am in complete agreement with my defence counsel. The Procurator claims that I am anti-Soviet, and that this is why I took part in this act. But that is untrue. My first conviction caused my life to be utterly ruined. The fact that I took part in this enterprise was the result of my lack of experience of life. My life has been eight years at the Suvorov [military] Academy, six years in camps for political prisoners, and only two years’ freedom. Living in a remote area I had no opportunity of applying my knowledge, and I had to bury it. You are deciding my fate, my life. The fourteen years’ imprisonment demanded by the prosecutor mean that I am regarded as incorrigible, that it has been decided to write me off. I have never pursued criminal ends. I ask the court to set a term of imprisonment which would leave me the hope of happiness, a hope for my future and that of my family.”

Yury Fyodorov: “Reflecting on what we have done, I have become convinced that we had only one purpose – to leave the USSR. None of us wished to harm the USSR. I consider that we took all precautions to protect the lives of the crew. I plead guilty only to an attempt to violate the state frontier and I am ready to answer for that, but my conscience does not make me feel guilty – I actually performed nothing. The prosecutor has not been stingy with the sentences, but does he know what even three years in a camp mean . . . ? The public prosecutor’s address was directed against the seizure of the aeroplane, and one can agree with that. As for the revolver, it was taken in case we had to use the Finland plan. I parted company with my anti-Soviet views when I was in the camp … In planning to seize the aeroplane we did not suspect that some of us were more guilty and some less. Each one did what he could. Suddenly it turns out that Dymshits and Kuznetsov are guiltiest of all of the act. At least Dymshits was going to pilot the aeroplane, but I cannot understand why Kuznetsov suddenly turns out to be more guilty than the rest of us. As for the possible consequences, I can say that if the act was not carried out, then it is futile to surmise about the course it would have taken. I ask the court to show mercy towards Kuznetsov and Dymshits. I wish to emphasise that I myself insisted on taking part, while Murzhenko was drawn into it by me even against Kuznetsov’s wishes.”

Anatoly Altman: “Citizen Judges, I appeal to you to spare the lives of Kuznetsov and Dymshits and to assign the minimum penalty for the only woman among us – Silva Zalmanson. 1 express deep regret, I am sincerely sorry that I and my comrades are here in the dock. I hope the court will find it possible not to punish us too severely. It is impossible for me to avoid my punishment for taking part in a crime, but there is one circumstance I find hard to understand. In 1969 I submitted an application to emigrate to Israel, i.e. I wanted to betray the Motherland. On that occasion my desire brought nothing more than contempt upon me, but on this occasion I am being tried. This is not idle bewilderment, as confinement, imprisonment and the agony of our near ones are involved. I was born in Soviet times and have spent all my life in the Soviet land. I have not had time to make a thorough study of the class-basis of Zionism, but I well know that peoples and nations pass at various times through various political states, for which they are none the worse and none the better. Today, when my fate is being decided, I feel both exalted and down-cast. I express the hope that Israel will be visited by peace. Today, my country, I send you greetings for this. Sholom-Aleikhem! Peace be with you, o land of Israel! ”

Leib Khnokh: “Citizen Judges, I ask you to show mercy to our two comrades and leniency to the only woman among us. I can only say again that our actions were not directed against the security of the USSR. My sole aim was to live in the state of Israel, which I have long since regarded as my native country, the country where my people once arose as a nation, where the Jewish state and Jewish culture have always been and are now developing, where my native tongue is spoken, where my relatives and near ones live. I have absolutely no anti-Soviet views. Two witnesses have incorrectly interpreted my views. Clearly they live in those areas of the USSR where Jews do not apply to OVTR. Both of them told the court that I had not perceived the essence of the socialist system. My only aim was to live in Israel – the true home of the Jews.”

Boris Penson: “Throughout the pre-trial investigation I gave evidence of my intentions, and it is useless for the Procurator to claim that I changed it – that is not so. It is just that during the first few days I gave no evidence at all, but once I had given it I did not change it. All the time I doubted whether we would succeed and whether it was worth doing at all. But the desire to bring happiness to my family was great, and although I did not appreciate the extent of the risk I still went ahead. Once in the wood, however, I decided to withdraw, but before I could do so we were arrested. I ask the court to take into consideration my remorse for my actions – I should have tried to emigrate legally, although the organisation dealing with this leaves no hope of emigrating to Israel. I am ready to answer for a crime I did not commit. I ask the court to take into account the fact that I have aged parents. I ask the court for leniency towards Silva Zalmanson and mercy for Kuznetsov and Dymshits.”

Mendel Bodnya: “I ask the court for mercy and leniency. I only wanted to see my mother. I ask the court to take into account the fact that I have promised never to break the law again.”


The judicial board of the Leningrad City Court delivered the following sentences:

M.Yu. Dymshits: the supreme penalty – death – with confiscation of property.

E.S. Kuznetsov: the supreme penalty – death – without confiscation of property owing to lack of the same. Judged to be an especially dangerous recidivist.

J.M. Mendelevich: fifteen years of strict-regime [camps] without confiscation of property owing to lack of the same.

Yu.P. Fyodorov: fifteen years of special-regime without confiscation of property owing to lack of the same. Judged to be an especially dangerous recidivist.

A.G. Murzhenko: fourteen years of special-regime without confiscation of property owing to lack of the same. Judged to be an especially dangerous recidivist.

L.G. Khnokh: thirteen years of strict-regime without confiscation of property owing to lack of the same.

A.A. Altman: twelve years of strict-regime without confiscation of property owing to lack of the same.

S.I. Zalmanson: ten years of strict-regime without confiscation of property owing to lack of the same.

B.S. Penson: ten years of strict-regime with confiscation of property (at the very beginning of the pre-trial investigation all his pictures, studies and drawings were confiscated as part of his personal property).

I.I. Zalmanson: eight years of strict-regime without confiscation of property owing to lack of the same.

M.A. Bodnya: four years of hard-regime without confiscation of property owing to lack of the same.

After the sentences had been delivered the “public” applauded, and the relatives of the accused cried out: “Fascists! How dare you applaud death sentences! “, “Well done! “, “Keep it up!”, “We’re with you!”, “We’ll wait for you!”, “We’ll make it to Israel!” after which the applause ceased.


On December 27 V.N. Chalidze, A.S. Volpin, A.N. Tverdokhlebov, B.I. Tsukerman and L.G. Rigerman sent a letter to the President of the Presidium of the USSR Supreme Soviet N.V. Podgorny. They asked him not to allow the murder of Kuznetsov and Dymshits; to allow all those wishing to emigrate to do so; to recognise the right of Jews to repatriation.

On 28 December Academician A.D. Sakharov sent a letter to R. Nixon, President of the United States, and to N.V. Podgorny, President of the Presidium of the USSR Supreme Soviet, in defence of Angela Davis and of Dymshits and Kuznetsov, convicted in Leningrad.

On 30 December 1970 a group of citizens of the USSR appealed to General Franco and to Podgorny, President of the Presidium of the USSR Supreme Soviet; they were “deeply perturbed and shocked by the wave of cruelty manifested by the death sentences imposed in Burgos and in Leningrad”. They urge that the lives of those sentenced should be spared.


THE HEARING OF THE APPEALS of the defendants and their defence counsels was unexpectedly fixed for 30 December, in violation of Article 328 of the Code of Criminal Procedure. Since copies of the sentence had been handed to the defendants on 26 December, the appeal hearing should have begun no earlier than 5 January, according to Articles 328 and 103 of the Code of Criminal Procedure.

About twenty “members of the public” gathered in the small courtroom, among them the few relatives of the accused who had managed to come to Moscow. The session on 30 December lasted until 2.30 pm. It was then unexpectedly interrupted for an hour and a half. After the recess the session lasted another twenty minutes. It was then adjourned until the following day. (It must be remembered that on that day, 30 December, General Franco set aside the death sentences imposed at Burgos.) The sessions on 30 December included the presentation of the case and the defence counsels’ addresses.

On 31 December the session lasted only half an hour. Procurator Pokhlebin (of the Procuracy of the USSR) spoke in favour of reducing the sentences. The appeal board then withdrew for an hour-long deliberation. At about 11 a.m. the judicial board for criminal affairs of the Russian Supreme Court, consisting of L.N. Smirnov (chairman of the Russian Supreme Court), M.A. Gavrilin and V.M. Timofeyev (members of the Supreme Court), delivered the following verdict:

“Considering that the criminal activity of Dymshits and Kuznetsov was interrupted before it had reached the stage of execution, and that the death penalty is an exceptional punishment, the board of the Supreme Court regards it as possible not to apply the death penalty to Dymshits and Kuznetsov.”

The board of the Supreme Court pronounced the following sentences:

  1. M.Yu. Dymshits: Fifteen years of strict-regime with confiscation of property.

  2. E.S. Kuznetsov: Fifteen years of special-regime without confiscation of property owing to lack of the same. Judged to be an especially dangerous recidivist.

In addition the board pronounced the following sentences:

  1. J.M. Mendelevich: Twelve years of strict-regime without confiscation of property owing to lack of the same.

  2. L.G. Khnokh: Ten years of strict-regime without confiscation of property owing to lack of the same.

  3. A.A. Altman: Ten years of strict-regime without confiscation of property owing to lack of the same.

The sentences imposed by the court of first instance on the remainder of the accused were left unaltered. However, in a telegram from the Russian Supreme Court to the Leningrad City Court I.I. Zalmanson‘s sentence was given as seven years of strict-regime (instead of eight).