Estonian court rules against Ustimenko's complaint over being called serial killer

  • 2022-07-27
  • BNS/TBT Staff

TALLINN – Yuri Ustimenko, a Russian national serving a life sentence in Estonia for his leading role in a killing spree in 2002 in which seven people lost their lives and six were injured, has lost his lawsuit against Postimees Group over the description "serial killer" used for him in an article published in Postimees.

Ustimenko, convicted of killing five people, believes that "serial killer" is too brutal an assessment, which is not in line with his sentence.

"Serial killer is a vulgar term, and I am basing myself on facts," Ustimenko said at a hearing in Harju County Court.

According to Ustimenko, he has clearly been subject to injustice, and the error has occurred in a statement of fact, which is not correct given his sentence. Besides, the articles published should have dealt with other convicts as well, he argued.

"The goal was robbery, not killing!" he said of the acts committed by him in 2002. "The murders weren't planned in advance and it wasn't systemic... It was random!"

The attorneys for Postimees Group, Maarja Pild and Karmen Turk, stated in court that, in the article, the journalist did not convey a legal assessment but spoke to the reader in ordinary language.

They added that the description "serial killer" as such cannot be taken as a statement of fact and cannot be found in the Penal Code. In any case, given the plaintiff's monstrous actions, the use of the description by journalists is permissible, according to the lawyers.

The court's decision of July 25 dismissed Ustimenko's action and he also has to pay the procedural costs incurred by Postimees. 

Pild and Turk, attorneys at Triniti law firm, said of the court's decision: "We hoped and thought it would go this way."

"We are happy with the decision and it's in line with expectations. It's not in force yet, but hopefully it won't be changed in the next tier," the attorneys said.

The state also paid the costs incurred by Ustimenko in the litigation.

"The decision is also significant in the sense that the state has already had to cover Postimees' procedural costs in advance as a guarantee of procedural costs for Ustimenko. Even if Ustimenko never repays the costs to Postimees, the state has already borne at least a part of them," they said.

Yuri Ustimenko is a Russian national and former naval cadet given a life sentence by an Estonian court in 2004 for murdering five people and attempted murder of two people in Estonia with another Russian national, Dmitry Medvedev, between March and May 2002, after the duo had illegally entered Estonia from Russia.

After the killing spree, Ustimenko and Medvedev fled to Latvia, where Medvedev was killed by Latvian police in a firefight from which Ustimenko managed to escape. Ustimenko was eventually captured in the Polish border town Suwalki and extradited to Estonia, where a court sentenced him to life imprisonment in March 2004. In 2010, Ustimenko presented an appeal for pardon to the president, which was rejected.

Ustimenko last stood trial in 2019, when a court handed to him a sentence of nine years in jail for crimes committed while in prison. The jail term was deemed covered by the life sentence previously given to him.