Court dismisses a health resort's lawsuit against "Rivne 1", who reported on its Russian owner
The Rivne oblast commercial court dismissed the claim of the health resort "Chervona Kalyna", which demanded that the TV channel "Rivne 1" retract the information presented in their journalistic investigation about the resort's new owner, the Russian businessman Yaroslav Zhdan, and a money laundering scheme.
The ruling was issued on January 5, 2024.
The court dismissed the resort's defamation lawsuit against the TV channel. The court believes that the resort provided no evidence that the facts laid down in the journalistic investigation were false and did not prove that the shared information is defamatory to them.
"Chervona Kalyna" filed the lawsuit in August 2023 and demanded that "Rivne 1" retract the information featured in their article and video report "Is the pearl of the Rivne oblast really run by Russians and used to siphon millions?", which they believe to be misleading.
The investigation by the "Rivne 1" journalist Ilya Tomashevsky is based on documents obtained from sources and testimonies by dismissed employees of the resort. The article reports that after the previous CEO of the resort, Yaroslav Syvy, was murdered in 2022, the new acting manager started buying shares of the enterprise and looking for an investor. The new investor and owner of 92% of the resort's shares was the "Areji Yu" LLC, which belongs to the Cyprus company "Frowlaria Holdings LTD". "And the actual owner (of the Cyprus company. – Ed.) is the Russian citizen Yaroslav Zhdan, who, according to the Russian media, has been featured in several high-profile scandals over dubious withdrawals of huge sums of money from the companies he runs," the report says.
The investigation also notes that most of the resort's employees esigned after learning that the new owner of the facility is a Russian businessman and that "Chervona Kalyna" accounts are being used to transfer money to Ukraine's temporarily occupied territory. Moreover, the employees learned that the property of the resort is going to be sold to legal entities controlled by the owner.
The journalists describe all these "schemes" in the investigation, citing the documents and bank statements they received and the document by Russian citizen Yaroslav Zhdan delegating the authority over the resort to the new director, Olena Popova.
The journalists note that, the police have already opened a case under Article 111-2 of the CCU ("Assistance to the aggressor state"), which is being investigated by the Ukrainian Security Service in the Rivne oblast.
The author of the material, Ilya Tomashevsky, told the IMI that after the story aired, the management of the resort took it as defamatory.
"We tried to meet with 'Chervona Kalyna' representatives even before the release of the video, in order to get a live comment. However, at the last moment, just as our team arrived, their plans suddenly changed, and we were not allowed to enter the resort's premises at all. We received a reply to our question, but in writing. After that, there were some suspicious media reports on the CK's supposedly good work. When our investigation was finally released, the resort's resources reported that the facts in the story were false and that they would sue us over this. And so it happened," said Ilya Tomashevsky.
The Rivne Oblast Commercial Court ruling states that the resort wanted several of passages retracted, including quotes from dismissed employees who talked to the journalists anonymously.
"The defendant shared information that is not rooted in reality and is not substantiated by any facts," the lawsuit by "Chervona Kalyna" claims.
To confirm the veracity of the information, "Rivne 1" asked the court to demand that PrivatBank, "Chervona Kalyna" and Olena Popova provide the documents which the journalists based their investigation on. Instead, the resort was against this and did not provide the information to the court. Such a refusal, according to the court, deprived them of the opportunity to confirm or refute the information.
"The case files contain no evidence that the plaintiff ("Chervona Kalyna". – Ed.) refuted the information presented by the defendant (TRC "Rivne 1". – Ed.) regarding Yaroslav Zhdan being the de-facto owner of the plaintiff's legal entity, the two month's delay in wages to employees, lay-offs, providing interest-free financial assistance, etc. Therefore, the court notes that the plaintiff has failed to attach evidence to substantiate the refutation of the information described in the disputed article by the defendant to the case files," states the judgement by the Rivne Oblast Commercial Court.
The court also believes that the health resort failed to prove that the reported information undermines the institution's business reputation.
This court's ruling be appealed to the North-Western Commercial Court of Appeal within 20 days from the day of its announcement.
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