MOSCOW, March 2. /TASS/. Animal rights activist convicted of stealing a guide dog from a blind street singer was released on Wednesday after the Moscow City Court overturned a guilty verdict against her, a TASS correspondent reported.
Victoria Pavlenko, who was sentenced by the Gagarinsky court to 1.5 years in jail and ordered to pay a fine of 15,000 rubles (around $200) in late November, was freed in court. The judge said the verdict needs to be overturned and the case will be sent to prosecutors to "rectify violations preventing the consideration of the case."
Labrador dog named Diana was stolen from singer Yulia Dyakova in July last year near a shop in southwest Moscow. In early August, the dog was found in a private dog shelter in Stupino, near Moscow and handed over to its owner.
Pavlenko, 38, who worked as a volunteer at the dog shelter, was detained on suspicion of the theft. The woman insisted that she had found the animal and brought it to the shelter. The singer claimed that the woman took away the dog just as she was standing nearby.
In her complaint, Pavlenko and her lawyers asked to overturn the verdict calling it ungrounded, harsh and unfair. The lawyers said investigators had failed to prove that Pavlenko took the dog with her for lucrative purposes. "My client should be acquitted due to absence of event of a crime," lawyer Yuri Larin said.
Responding to the complaint, the singer said: "It is important for me that this should be a guilty verdict, I believe the guilt was fully proved," she said.
The stolen guide dog drama became a high-profile case due to social networks. The search for the dog was ordered by Russia’s top investigator Alexander Bastrykin. The story also drew attention of the West, and in December French actress Brigitte Bardot asked President Vladimir Putin to release the animal rights activist.