19 December 2020
Hi. This is Artem Kutlovsky, a Team 29 lawyer
It’s been a bumper week. Among the various goings-on was the end-of-year press conference with President Vladimir Putin. I don’t know if you saw it (or if there’s any sense in watching it), but it can’t very well go without mention. I’ll be brief.
“Thank you for this platform.”
Team 29 has moved entirely to remote working. But we’d like to talk to people a bit more, even if it’s online. We’ve been trying to build a presence on various platforms and have just made it to Yandex.Q (previously TheQuestion). Team 29 now has a page on there, so please subscribe if you want to get a mini consultation from our lawyers.
“Nowhere in the world is there the level of transparency that we have.”
In fact, the Duma has yet to pass a draft law designed to keep information about luxury properties owned by officials hidden. It’s only had its first reading so far, but once the draft is passed, the Russian media won’t be able to publish investigations into corruption. So, 2020 turns out to have been a bumper year for officials.
“Importantly, the citizens of this country need to have confidence that elections are held transparently.”
Roskomnadzor is seeking to halt the activities of the independent news outlet Vremya, whose correspondents were responsible for bringing to light irregularities at polling stations during the voting on amendments to the Constitution. Team 29 is defending the media outlet in court. The Golos civil society movement had accredited Vremya journalists to work at the polling stations. If unsuccessful in court, the news outlet’s registration will be declared invalid, and it will become even harder to monitor elections in Russia. On a related note, having discussed Team 29’s cases with members of the electoral commissions of different regions, I decided to build on my experience of election monitoring by becoming a member of one such commission. If anyone would like to join like me, it isn’t too late – especially as we have State Duma elections coming up next year.
“It provides us with tools that we didn’t have before.”
Among our fundamental constitutional rights, aside from voting rights, one that has been and continues to be severely curtailed is our right to assemble peacefully, without arms, and to hold public meetings. Not happy about that, Konstantin Kotov took to the streets – for himself and for us all – and as a result was sentenced to four years under “Dadin’s article”. He spent 493 days in detention and was let out on 16 December. Team 29 got an interview with him on his release. Have a read before Roskomnadzor orders us to take down the content (you never know).
“But investigators and the intelligence services must prove it, and if they don’t, then they will have to apologise to him.”
Now to the cases of Karina Tsurkan and Ivan Safronov. This week, Team 29 revealed the extent of disinformation surrounding their cases. We lawyers were taught that the standard of proof in criminal cases is ‘beyond reasonable doubt’. The accused should be given the benefit of the doubt, who in such a case should then be found not guilty. However, this didn’t prevent the prosecution from requesting 18 years in a prison camp for Karina Tsurkan on the grounds of evidence that was highly questionable. The head of Team 29, Ivan Pavlov, drew attention to how much pressure the accused are under in such cases, and to the general absurdity of what was happening.
Once again, the president made errors and inaccuracies in his comments on the case of another of our clients, the journalist Ivan Safronov. It’s possible that the situation with this and similar cases, where case files are sealed and trials held in closed session, means that even the head of state doesn’t fully understand what is actually going on.
“Of course, the intelligence services must keep an eye on him.”
I was recently at a performance of the stand-up comedian Aleksandr Dolgopolov. He joked that he would understand and wouldn’t be surprised if, after all he’s been through, Aleksei Navalny came to power and turned into a dictator. Anyway, over-the-top stand-ups aside, let’s not allow the poisoning case (which must be brought to court) to pass without us doing something about it.
Believe in small deeds, and be free!