Team 29: The next word they’ll ban will be ‘torch’

12 February 2021

Hi. Ksenia Ufimtseva here, Editor of the Team 29 website.

This is the last time you’ll read my newsletter, as today, 12 February, is my last day at Team 29. I’m grateful to Team 29 for the opportunity to have had sight of, and really get to grips with, all the legal goings-on behind the scenes in today’s Russia. You need to have a solid resolve, or even doggedness, to come out fighting again and again against the Leviathan that is ‘Basmanny justice’. But take it from me, the jurists and lawyers of Team 29 have these attributes in spades.

Speaking of justice, what we are witnessing, in my humble opinion, is history unfolding before our very eyes. The 1964 trial of Joseph Brodsky came to epitomise the Soviet government’s fight against dissent. 2021’s legal proceedings against Aleksei Navalny for ‘defaming’ a war veteran are set to break that record for their absurdity. The trial hearings are playing out against a backdrop of completely outlandish prohibited activities (I wouldn’t be surprise if the next word to be banned is ‘torch’). Current enforcement practice is described by the classic thus: “You are guilty because I am hungry.” What can you be put on trial for in today’s Russia? Everything, that’s for sure. Take, for example, the flash mob launched by Navalny ally Leonid Volkov. Team 29 lawyer Artem Kutlovsky talks about what Russians are being threatened with for using torches in their own courtyards.

Meanwhile, Team 29 continues to seek justice for Margarita Yudina. As you’ll recall, on 24 January, a police officer struck the woman hard in the stomach during a protest rally in St Petersburg. Following a major public outcry over his actions, the police officer came to see Margarita in hospital – with flowers and apologies. As a result, the victim was transferred from intensive care to a normal ward where, without her consent, they let bystanders in. Of course, Coronavirus isn’t a danger when the place is packed with law enforcement officers. So you see, if a protester goes out onto the street they will end up putting themselves on show for the whole world to see! (Please note sarcasm). Anyway, the doctors violated measures against Covid by allowing a policeman onto the ward. So, on account of their actions, Team 29 lawyers submitted a complaint to Roszdravnadzor [the Federal Service for Surveillance in Healthcare].

Finally, I’d like to make an important point that came to me in recent weeks. We may not see eye-to-eye with the people our government now passes judgment on and humiliates, but we have to understand that if such anarchy goes on in the glare of the TV cameras, then we’ll be dealt with in the same way, only silently, in the corridors of the court – and alone. I therefore encourage you to support human rights organisations.

En guarde and roll with the punches!


Translated by Lindsay Munford

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