It was entirely predictable that the Moscow district court considering the Dubrovka lawsuit against Vladimir Putin would rule in Putin’s favor. What was not so predictable was that the court decision would set forth as an explicit constitutional rule that the president is in principle immune from lawsuits. As Zhenya Snezhkina observed in a July 8 analysis for the Grani.ru website, in effect the court has now declared that the Russian state is an “absolute monarchy—for only in such a political system does the head of state combine in himself both personal and state immunity.”
The lawsuit had been brought by victims of the fall 2002 Dubrovka theater siege. They accused the Putin administration of having negligently risked their lives and health during that siege and also of having covered up the facts about what its security services did and failed to do. The court ruled that the president has a constitutional guarantee of civil and criminal immunity in the exercise of his powers.