10 April 2021
Nikolai Neliubin in conversation with the lawyer Anna Stavitskaya about the case of Roman Anin. An extract from ‘ФСБ на обыске у журналиста Романа Анина: “Не путайте доброту и слабость”.’
On the 9th of April, agents from the FSB and the Investigative Committee conducted a seven-hour search of the home of chief editor of “Important Stories” Roman Anin, one of the most well-known investigative journalists in Russia. Anin still has the status of a witness in an investigation into an alleged violation of privacy with use of official position for an article written five years ago about the wife of head of Rosneft Viktor Sechin. In an interview with Anin’s lawyer, Novy Prospekt found out how the security forces behaved during the interrogation, why they needed to question Anin at night, and what the persecution of independent journalists tells Russian society in general.
Anna, typically searches are conducted in the morning, but this “visit” was at night. Was this the security services being adroit? Was this an attempt to reduce public outcry?
They don’t necessarily come in the early morning. It also happens in the evening. For them, such actions are totally normal. Either early in the morning or in the evening. You can’t say that this was some kind of “adroitness”, but we can say that if they came to Roman on Friday evening, then apparently their calculation was that on Friday evening there would be less public outcry, because fewer people would pay attention. If that’s the case, it means that the security services don’t understand the media environment well, because journalists work both at night, and during the day, both on Friday, and Saturday and Sunday.
The search was seven hours long. Is Anin’s apartment that big?
No. It was so long because, to begin with, there were searching for all possible holders of information; USB drives, computers, laptops, phones, hard drives. They put all of this in piles and recorded for a long time what they had found. The inspector described each device in a report: what was written on it, the name, the identification number. Then it was all packed into bags. Then on the package they listed what was packed inside. After that, everyone involved in the case had to sign. The report, though six pages long, took 4 hours to complete.
So Roman is deprived of the opportunity to carry out his professional work?
All possible devices Roman uses for work have currently been seized. The prosecutor said that he would return those which were not relevant to the case. But when that will happen is obviously unclear. In the search report, we indicated with our comments that devices belonging to Roman’s girlfriend, who lives with him, had also been seized, not just those of Roman. Of course, Roman’s professional activity is now difficult. His laptop was taken away. Nonetheless, you can buy a new laptop and his journalist’s brain was not taken away.
Was the night-time interrogation justified? It looks like an intentional demonstration of power by the authorities with regard to Roman, but what does the law say?
From a legal perspective, interrogations cannot be conducted between 22:00 and 06:00. Nonetheless, in our case it was clear that if we did not go to this interrogation voluntarily then Roman would have been taken forcibly. After delivery to the investigator, a detention report is drawn up in no more than 3 hours. I absolutely didn’t want Roman to have detainee status. After weighing up all of the consequences, we decided to go voluntarily. Everything made clear that after the search Roman had to be questioned for some reason. It wasn’t important whether or not he gave evidence, but rather that a record of the investigation was drawn up…
Translated by Ruairidh Irwin