Team 29: Information will be freely available, and Russia will be free

26 March 2021

Hi, it’s Olya Shakina, editor of the Team 29 website

Another week, another bucket of woe for the human rights media. Here’s a recap.

Tuesday saw the release of one of the most significant figures involved in the Palace case, surveyor Andrei Lomov (note: the case is about people who were rounded up in the winter rallies, including on St Petersburg’s Palace Square). Well, he’s out. He pleaded guilty, was handed a two-year suspended sentence, and went home from court – to seven children and a pregnant wife, no less! It’s such a painfully sad story. The journalist Yury Saprykin was so touched by it all that he wrote to Lomov in jail. That was before his release. It’s so great when you write to a political prisoner, and they don’t get the letter because they’re already out. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always happen like that. So, keep on writing to political prisoners, as they really need to hear from you.

On our website, we have these great guides – a sort of model ‘how to’ for people who are confronting real-life injustices happening right now. They include how to comfort a child during a search, what to say in court if you get arrested at a rally, and whether you can be reinstated in a college or university when you’ve been excluded for your views and activism. At one point, I wanted to put out a guide on ‘How to persuade celebrities to support your human rights initiative’, but, thankfully, it hasn’t been necessary. Being a principled citizen is increasingly in vogue amongst famous people. You’ll soon see regular proof of this on our website. In the meantime, read our guide on which government officials it will be easy to corrupt under a new draft law. Spoiler: nearly all of them. This extraordinary legal act doesn’t go so far as to legitimise bribes (even the most brazen bills of that ‘crazy printer’ [a pejorative term for the State Duma] aren’t bold enough to quarrel with the Criminal Code), but it does relax the rules on declaring palaces, yachts, and French vineyards. Have a read, as our editor Lena Skvortsova has really got to the bottom of this one.

What else has been happening? Well, basically, the same as usual. The Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA) keeps acting like it doesn’t know which of its operatives with the fogged visor it was who hit Margarita Yudina in the stomach, and meanwhile Dmitry Peskov is insisting on the MIA’s right not to know. The Prosecutor’s Office is trying to up the number of actual days Karina Tsurkan is locked up for, when the convicted woman has already been jailed for fifteen years for unproven espionage. The court is denying an elderly German man access to information about his father, who was shot by Soviet soldiers, because his father has yet to be rehabilitated.

What can we do in a situation where evil always wins – in the short strategic sprint? Educate! For example, you could talk about how far things have moved on in the past decade with investigations based on open sources. That’s the method used by Navalny: he sat down at a computer, made a few official calls to some government agencies, and it ended up causing a sensation. Even at the end of the last century, it was impossible to uncover hardly any secrets without delving into the paper archives. Today, OSINT (open source intelligence) is practically a scientific discipline – intelligence 2.0, and it’s significantly more effective than old-school methods of information gathering in keeping with the spy novels of John Le Carré. But then, the history of open source research is no less fascinating – you will have proof of this in our upcoming features on how OSINT was used to research incidents of slave-trading, identify huge quantities of laundered money, and orchestrate revolutions. For now, ahead of the remarkable discoveries to come, have a read through our background introduction.

It’s worth remembering which methods lead to findings in today’s open landscape, and who these people are who, unfamiliar with the latest information gathering methods, keep on prosecuting innocent citizens for espionage and treason.

Information must be available, and Russia must be free!

Olya Shakina

Translated by Lindsay Munford

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