Team 29: ✔️ Hunger games

19 June 2021

Hi, it’s Dmitry Zair-Bek from Team 29

The State Duma elections have officially been set for 19 September 2021. These elections affect everyone, without a doubt. It’s a sort of ‘Hunger Games’. The outcome of the election cycle will determine the future of Russia’s political system until at least 2024, when the next presidential elections will take place (unless further changes are made).

The government has taken a radical approach to the matter: at least 11 independent politicians who announced plans to stand in the parliamentary elections at various levels have ended up involved in criminal proceedings – both as witnesses and defendants. After two days in a remand prison, former MP Dmitry Gudkov was forced to leave the country, and politician Andrey Pivovarov was pulled off a plane as it taxied to the runway, before being arrested on a charge of reposting something (!), and it wasn’t even posted by him but by his social media manager (!!). The day after announcing his candidature, the municipal deputy for Moscow’s Tverskoy District, Ketevan Kharaidze, was detained. I fear this is just the beginning; things are going to get worse. But we human rights defenders are keeping our finger on the pulse and stand ready to assist.

Our client Valery Mitko has been hospitalised

This week, our client, 79-year old academic Valery Mitko, ended up in hospital. The early diagnosis was a small-focal myocardial infarction (a minor heart attack), angina flare-up, and hypertension.

In February 2020, President of the Arctic Academy of Sciences Valery Mitko was charged with treason for a lecture tour he undertook to China. The professor was said to have taken with him in his baggage specifications for submarines including Russian model. Mitko is pleading not guilty and has been under house arrest for over a year now.

Vouch for Ivan Pavlov

No appeal against the measures of restraint applied to our director, Ivan Pavlov, has yet taken place – the hearing has been deferred to July. It means that we’ll be extending the period for the collection of personal endorsements (you can read all about this here). If you wanted to tell the court that Ivan Yurevich is an honest man, you still have the chance to do so. The collection sheet for endorsements in Moscow and St Petersburg is up on our website. You can also send the document via Russian Post, and I, Dmitry Zair-Bek, will collect it personally at the post office – I’m there all the time. ❤️

Watch, listen, and read

The latest guest on our YouTube project is human rights defender and political strategist Marina Litvinovich. She’s had the opportunity to work alongside a diverse set of politicians: Putin and Kiriyenko, Nemtsov and Chubais, Kasparov and Khodorkovsky. In 2018, she collaborated with Ksenia Sobchak. It’s a fascinating interview, in my opinion – just about the best we’ve ever done (that’s how I see it, anyway, as I’m a real fan of recent Russian history).

This week, the Russia Shuts Down podcast tells Team 29 listeners about extremism. The image of extremists has changed beyond recognition over the past 19 years, from radical neo-Nazis and murderers to peaceful citizens who post on social media or go along to rallies. We talk to the director of the SOVA Centre for Information and Analysis, Alexander Verkhovsky, about what extremism is and what it’s all about (or what you can be locked up for under relevant legislation). We also have a chat with the photographer Valdimir Gerdo, who caught the riots on Manezhnaya Square, in order to understand how protests have changed over the past couple of decades.

Finally, to Team 29’s literary project. This week, we’re publishing a story about a student from the provinces who found herself in a tricky situation: her activist coursemates had her down as a pro-Putinite, but that’s just not true – all that happened was that an overzealous policeman decided to look out for her.

We’ll be in touch again very soon!

May the odds always be in your favour

Dmitry and Team 29

Translated by Lindsay Munford

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