Team 29: Foreign agents and missing burgers

19 February 2021

Hi. It’s Maksim Zagovora, Head of Media at Team 29.

Now, it’s true that this working week doesn’t end until tomorrow. But then, long drawn-out goodbyes are hard, as everyone knows, so I’ll make a start right now. 

Right, let’s get to it. First of all, we have a new case – one I’d call ‘The case of the missing burgers’. It’s a real whodunnit. If you’re feeling lost, let me bring you up to speed: in early February, Ekho Moskvy journalist Arseny Vesnin read in private Telegram chat rooms about how officers of St Petersburg’s 33rd police station ate some burgers that had been given to people arrested at a protest held on 31 January. He [Vesnin] read about this and shared the information on his channel.

Now, my question is this: who was it in this case that piqued the interest of investigators? That’s right – it wasn’t the police officers, of course, but Arseny Vesnin. It’s been suggested to him that pretty soon he’ll be facing a criminal case for slander. This article of the law was actually tightened up in December 2020, meaning that, in theory, our colleague is looking at a serious prison term.

We’re confident there isn’t a hint of slander here.  And in this episode of the podcast Precedent of Russia, the lawyer Dasha Sukhikh explains why. Have a listen, if you haven’t yet done so. We’re hopeful that the case against Vesnin will be shut no sooner than it’s opened, although, as ever, we’re preparing for the worst.

The interview of the week was a discussion our client Ivan Safronov had with former colleagues of his from Kommersant. Ivan has been in detention for over a year and a half, but no one has given him a proper explanation why that is. This quote is very telling: “No one from the investigative team has explained the nature of the indictments to me. They just say general stuff like, ‘In 2017, you passed something on that you shouldn’t have, but we’re not going to point out what this is, because we don’t want to’”. Have a read – it’s a striking document of our times. 

Freedom for Ivan Safronov! That’s what we want to achieve. We’re going to keep fighting for it, and we will succeed.

Another important interview this week was the third episode of our YouTube project Komanda [‘Team’]. The guest was Olga Shepeleva, one of Russia’s foremost experts on prisons and the whole Federal Penitentiary Service system. Making her debut as host was Ekho Moskvy journalist Tanya Felgengauer. What did they talk about? Well, in a nutshell: why everything is the way it is, and how to make things different. Olga really does know more about this than anyone. Be sure to take an hour of your time to watch it.

Do spend another forty or so minutes on the new episode of our podcast on the new law on foreign agents. Together with senior T29 lawyer Maksim Olenichev and human rights defender and foreign agent Lev Ponomarev, we’ll explain why you might be next in line to be named as such. Yeah, you personally. Here’s simple example. I, Maksim Zagovor, don’t engage in any political activity, but even this letter might be condemned as such if there was the will to do so. Being active for Team 29 would make that more likely. Taking part in a protest – more likely still. Doing an interview about politics or recording a podcast like that – no doubt whatsoever. The bottom line is, it’s all political activity – we get that. We’re all now political actors. Now to funding. I have a sister, who lives in Paris. We’re in touch all the time and often send each other modest sums of money. Any transfer from my sister means I’m being funded from overseas, and anything I do might qualify as political activity. These two facts may not be interrelated, but from a legal standpoint they are automatically connected. The shoe fits. I’m potentially a foreign agent. And once you receive a transfer from overseas, then so are you.

That does it for today, I think. Thank you for joining us. It means a lot to us. Subscribe to Team 29 on all your social media channels, watch us on YouTube, listen on any platform of your choosing, and take a look at our website!

Be free and have a good weekend, if you have it ahead, of course!

Maksim, Team 29

Translated by Lindsay Munford

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