This week our guest on the podcast is Mikhail Valentinovich Savva. Mikhail Savva is a human rights activist, political scientist and former professor at Kuban State University. In 1993-1994 Mikhail Savva was head of the Department of Nationalities, Regional Policy and Migration of the Krasnodar Region Administration. In 1994-1995 he headed the Department for Nationalities Affairs of the Ministry of Nationalities and Regional Policy of Russia, a position from which he resigned over the first Chechen war. In 1995-1996, Savva was deputy gead of the Krasnodar Region Administration and the Administration’s representative to the Regional Legislative Assembly. He then became head of Krasnodar City Hall’s department for public and interregional relations. From 1996 Savva worked at Kuban State University where he was an associate professor and then professor in the Department of Political Science; from 2001 he was a professor in the Department of Public Relations and Social Communications. From January 2001 Mikhail Savva also held the position of director of grantmaking programmes at the Southern Regional Resource Centre, an NGO. He was also a member of the Krasnodar Region Public Oversight Commission, monitoring human rights in places of detention. Savva is a specialist in the field of interethnic relations research and the author of a large number of publications in this field. In April 2013 a criminal case was initiated against Savva under Article 159, Part 3, of the Russian Criminal Code (‘Fraud on an especially large scale’). In June 2013 the Union of Solidarity with Political Prisoners recognised Mikhail Savva as a political prisoner. In April 2014 a district court in Krasnodar convicted Savva and gave him a three-year suspended sentence. Since 2015 Mikhail Savva has lived in Kiev. He is currently chairof the board of the Owl Expert Group, an NGO registered in Ukraine.
The issues discussed in the podcast include: the reasons for, and course of, his criminal prosecution; conditions in pre-trial detention centre; the major issues facing the Russian judicial and law enforcement systems; the Southern Resource Centre; right of association in Russia and Ukraine; relations between Russia and Ukraine; the future of Russia.
This podcast is in the Russian language. You can listen to it here:
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The music, from Stravinsky’s Elegy for Solo Viola, is performed for us by Karolina Herrera.
Sergei Nikitin writes on Facebook: “Hoping for justice in modern Russia is a sign of not being in your right mind.” Our latest guest on the podcast, Mikhail Valentinovich Savva, told Simon Cosgrove and me how, since April 2013, the FSB has been mocking him, accusing him of not having conducted the classes in social entrepreneurship planned as part of a project under a grant from the regional administration. “In fact, I conducted even more of them than was required,” says Mikhail Savva. In May 2013 a second case was initiated against Savva, already under Article 159 of the Criminal Code. He spent a year in pre-trial detention centre № 5, in a cell of 9.5 square meters on the 4th floor of the building of the NKVD internal prison built under Yezhov. A year after his home was first searched – in April 2014 – Savva was given a three-year suspended sentence. He left behind the walls built by Yezhov, but it was clear to the professor that the local Chekists would not stop at this. At the end of 2014 he was again brought in for questioning. After this interrogation, it became clear to Savva that any day fresh fabricated charges would be laid against him. In early 2015, Mikhail Valentinovich left Russia. In a country where courts – according to Savva – are fully dependent on the FSB, where candidates for judges are reviewed by the FSB before being appointed, there is no justice. Mikhail Savva is carrying on his work, now in Ukraine. He writes expert opinions at the request of lawyers from European countries, the United States, Ukraine, Russia and Israel with regard to asylum and extradition cases. Our conversation was extremely interesting. I kept catching myself thinking that I was glad that this wonderful man managed to slip out of the hands of the Chekists. But I regret he had to leave his home, his country.
Simon Cosgrove adds: If you want to listen to this podcast on the podcasts.com website and it doesn’t seem to play, please download by clicking on the three dots to the right. A summary of some of the week’s events in Russia relevant to human rights can be found on our website here.