2 April 2021
Hi, it’s Liza Aleksadrova-Zorina, press secretary and PR manager for Team 29
I joined the Team this week and I’ll be taking care of external relations. I’m going to do whatever it takes to make sure there isn’t a single person in Russia who doesn’t know what amazing lawyers work at Team 29.
Me, I’m a writer and journalist. But what’s going on in Russia nowadays leaves a writer no choice except to lay down their pen and watch the news bulletins, popcorn in hand. That’s because reality for us beats anything the imagination can dream up. It’s like the police, the FSB, and the courts have chosen to turn our country into an iconic dystopia, like in Orwell’s 1984, Zamyatin’s We, Boye’s Kallocain, or Huxley’s Brave New World. But they didn’t just go with one of them – they thought hey, let’s do the lot. Well, now I’ve joined Team 29 I’m going to do my utmost to resist it.
ECHR on the Gennady Kravtsova case – victory!
Now, moving on to the main stories. Our big news is a letter from Strasbourg we received a few days ago. In it, the ECHR ordered Russia to review the case of Team 29 client Gennady Kravtsov, who was convicted of treason.
You’ll recall that radio engineer Kravtsov spent six years in prison for simply sending his CV to Sweden. Seriously, that’s all it was. In 2005, he was fired from the GRU, and five years later he sent his CV to the Radio Engineering Centre of the Swedish Armed Forces, which turned him down. Then, in 2014, Gennady was arrested. The investigation alleged that his CV contained information about staffing at the GRU. This never mind the fact that anyone can access the recruitment webpages, punch in the query “General Intelligence Directorate”, and easily access the CVs of former GRU operatives – plus the units they were attached to.
The ECHR has now ordered that legal expenses be awarded to Kravtsov and that a review be carried out of the decision in the criminal case. Hooray, victory!
Appeal against the sentence of Aleksandr Marchenko
Sadly, our work isn’t just about victories. This week, the court considered an appeal against the sentence of another ‘spy’, Ukrainian Aleksandr Marchenko. And it upheld the punishment of 10 years in a prison camp. There’s a lot about Marchenko’s story that’s ridiculous, innocent, and plain silly. Having seen a packet of ‘Turbo’ gum with a Lamborghini on the label as a child, Marchenko could dream of little else. He never had the money for a car like that, but it didn’t stop him from dreaming. Then, suddenly, an old, battered Lamborghini Diablo with a paint job came along, and he bought it to do it up. But the body shop was actually in Donetsk, and it was 2014… and, well, we all know what happened in 2014.
Finally, the car ended up at the house of the DPR Minister of Revenue and Duties, who was a close friend of Aleksandr Zakharchenko. On finding out about this, Marchenko set off for Donetsk (via Minsk, Moscow and Roston-on-Don) to get his dream car back. The next thing he knew, he was being tortured in the infamous ‘Izolyatsiya’ (Isolation) concentration camp, transferred to Russia, charged with espionage, and spent 10 years in a prison camp.
Unfortunately, the story of the Lamborghini comes across as so ridiculous that this horrendous sentencing of an innocent man is failing to provoke any public reaction at all. And the Lamborghini Diablo sounds a little too nice – no one knows that we’re talking here about a clapped out ‘91 model. The lack of support from journalists and human rights defenders means that Marchenko is left to fend for himself against an unfair judicial system. But Team 29’s lawyers will continue to fight for their client. What comes next is an appeal against the sentence by way of cassation.
Exclusion of Team 29’s social media editor from St Petersburg State University (SPbSU)
Team 29 is generally never out of work (sad joke), and, you know, sometimes our own employees become clients. Many of you probably recall how on a flimsy pretext the journalist Lena Skvortsova was excluded from the journalism faculty of SPbSU. Lena decided to keep fighting and if in the coming weeks things continue as they are, she’ll be pressing charges against SPbSU. It would be actually one of the first times this has happened in the university’s history. Few would have the guts.
Legislative assembly deputies Boris Vishnevsky and Maksim Reznik have already lent their support to Lena. They sent deputy’s enquiries to the rector of SPbSU and the head of the Federal Service for the Supervision of Education and Science, and a letter to the city’s prosecutor, Sergey Litvinenko, asking him to check the legality of excluding the student.
Please all give your support to our Lena! Sign the petition for her and send in complaints to Rosobrnadzor – we have put together a template to make this really easy. If you find yourself in a bad situation, follow Lena’s example: she has outlined the stages in this fight, step by step, in a feature on our website.
Law prohibiting outreach work
This week, one of the main subjects of debate on social media and in the media generally was the amendments to the law, ‘On education in the Russian Federation’ passed by the State Duma on 16 March. Many have dubbed it the Law on the prohibition of outreach work. In our detailed guide, we cover what the amendments are all about, what they mean for society as a whole and for each of us, and, ultimately, how we can live with it. These things are also debated by Team 29 Media Director Maksim Zagovor, lawyer Maksim Olenichev, and the co-founder of Free University, Kirill Martynov, in the podcast Precedent of Russia.
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Nice to meet you,
Translated by Lindsay Munford