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30 Apr, 2021 15:22

Prominent Russian lawyer detained after raid by security forces, reportedly charged with leaking from confidential ‘spying’ trial

Prominent Russian lawyer detained after raid by security forces, reportedly charged with leaking from confidential ‘spying’ trial

Russian defense attorney Ivan Pavlov was detained on Friday morning after authorities searched his room at a Moscow hotel, apparently in connection with the alleged disclosure of information from confidential legal proceedings.

The lawyer told reporters on Friday that his documents had been seized by officers from the FSB, Russia’s top domestic security agency, as well as representatives of the country’s Investigative Committee. Speaking to journalists, Pavlov claimed he “had just been searched” and that “files under attorney-client privilege have been taken.”

Pavlov added that “practically all of the dossiers” relating to the ongoing trial of Ivan Safronov, a former newspaper reporter turned space agency advisor, had been confiscated. Safronov stands accused of handing over confidential information to the intelligence services of a NATO member state. “My accusation is connected with that case,” he claimed. “Of course, I don’t admit any guilt.”

Also on rt.com Space, spies & suicide: How Roscosmos adviser & ex-journo Ivan Safronov crash-landed at the centre of NATO-linked espionage drama

He was subsequently detained and questioned by investigators. Later that day, the NGO he heads, Team 29, reported that he had been charged with the unauthorized release of information from a preliminary investigation. Under the law, Pavlov could face a fine of up to 80,000 rubles ($1,000), 480 hours of mandatory labour, or arrest for up to three months.

At the same time, the offices of Team 29 in Russia’s second largest city, St Petersburg, were searched by the Investigation Committee, the group’s press service told journalists.

A row has since broken out over Pavlov’s detention, with an opposition politician serving as the ombudsman of St Petersburg accusing the authorities of taking the action “against a lawyer who is currently conducting high-profile cases.” Alexander Shishlov argued that the move “can be regarded as an act aimed at intimidating the entire legal community.” A number of lawyers have since signed an open letter demanding his release.

However, the Kremlin has denied these allegations. Press secretary Dmitry Peskov on Friday rejected suggestions that the raid constituted undue pressure, insisting that law enforcement officers were simply “doing their job.” He added that “we do not know the reason for the detention, nor how it happened, nor what is imputed to the lawyer.”

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As well as Safronov, Pavlov has advocated for a number of high profile defendants, including Karina Tsurkan, a former manager at energy holding company Inter RAO accused of espionage. He is also currently representing the interests of Alexey Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation, registered as a foreign agent by the Russian government over links to overseas funding. Prosecutors are seeking to have the organization designated as an extremist group.

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