Lev Ponomarev on the arrest of Dmitry Gudkov and the closing of Open Russia in the context of continuing pressure on the opposition

3 June 2021

An interview with Lev Ponomarev, human-rights activist and member of the Moscow Helsinki Group [pictured left] by Nikolai Vasilyev of Sobesednik.

Source: Moscow Helsinki Group [original source: Sobesednik.ru]

On the evening of 3 June, politician Dmitry Gudkov was unexpectedly released after spending two days in a pre-trial detention centre where he was “locked up” as a result of rather curious searches that also involved his relatives and colleagues. The opposition politician faced five years in prison for illegal possession of weapons, but sources TASS and Interfax reported that the criminal case against him will be dropped.

Pavel Chikov, head of the human rights group Agora, shared an update from Gudkov’s lawyer with The Bell, stating that although Gudkov has been released, he remains a suspect in the case. He was ordered to report to the Main Investigative Department of the Ministry of Internal Affairs. Dmitry’s aunt, Irina Ermilova, was also released shortly afterwards.

Sobesednik.ru asked human rights activist Lev Ponomarev to comment on what happened to Dmitry Gudkov (Gudkov was still in custody at the time of the following conversation).

“This is abuse of the law, it’s a violation of the Constitution,” says the human rights activist. “It should be punished. But no one is going to punish anyone for it, because the FSB is apparently in charge of domestic politics in Russia. The FSB is the main organisation in charge today.

I think the country is run by a ‘collective Putin,’ and most of the people involved are probably from the FSB. Putin is in charge of the FSB as the president, but he himself is a pawn of the system.”

“Do you think that the FSB used the Moscow Property Department to find a way to deal with the opposition politician?”

“Yes. I had a conflict with the Moscow Property Department myself in 2013, when they threw us out of our offices onto the street. A man turned up who introduced himself as General Pitin but didn’t provide any identification. He said, ‘You have to leave the premises today.’ There was a young guy with him, some clerk from the Property Department. I answered, ‘Well, please go through the court. I have no debts, I pay my rent.’

It turned out that he was a retired general who headed some anti-corruption commission in Moscow. The riot police bus came at two in the morning. I was dragged across the floor, with the general trying to kick me as it happened. Lukin, the Human Rights Ombudman at the time, summoned the general and tried to put him in his place. He wasn’t able to. After all of this happened, I went to Vyacheslav Volodin, who sent me to Sobyanin. Fedotov and I were received by the mayor of Moscow. Sobyanin said: ‘Lev Aleksandrovich, there’s been a mistake. We’ll give you some other premises.’ They ended up giving me new premises for our offices.

But even then, in 2013, I saw that it’s the security forces who have the power, although human rights activists were more of a force back then, and Fedotov had influence in the presidential administration.”

“Dmitry Gudkov’s arrest involved ammunition – live ammunition, and even a ‘grenade launcher’…”

“The bullets belong to Gennady Gudkov. Gena fled the country because he realized that a criminal case was imminent. Now he definitely won’t come back to Russia, and he won’t be able to re-register the weapons that it’s my understanding he has a license to possess, since he didn’t have time to do so before he left. I sympathize with Gennady.”

“So an absolutely trumped up case was invented to latch onto this ammunition? It reminds me of how they arrested Navalny – for allegedly failing to comply with his probationary criminal sentence in the Yves Rocher case.”

“Navalny, Open Russia*, Gennady Gudkov, Dmitry Gudkov… What they’re doing to these people is very similar to abuse of the law, which started happening here when Putin entered the scene. And we, the human rights activists, have been saying so since the very start.”

  • Open Russia has been recognized in the Russian Federation as an undesirable organization.

Translation by Nina dePalma

Leave a Reply