Category Archives: lawyers

Now, they go After Magnitsky’s Momma

PRESS RELEASE

Mother of Russian Anti-Corruption Lawyer Killed in Custody, Has Been Harassed in Moscow, Complaint Revealed Today

Nataliya Magnitskaya, mother of lawyer Sergei Magnitsky

3 December 2010 – The mother of Sergei Magnitsky, the Russian anti-corruption lawyer killed in police custody, has been harassed outside her home in Moscow since receiving, on behalf of her son, the 2010 Integrity Award from Transparency International two weeks ago. A team of people from the Russian television station NTV, who have interchangeably represented themselves both as realtors and as journalists, have followed Magnitsky’s mother, attempted to enter her house, carried out covert filming of her and intruded upon her with offensive questions. NTV is controlled by the Russian state-owned gas company, Gazprom.

A complaint about the abusive harassment of Sergei Magnitsky’s mother has been filed today by Sergei Magnitsky’s former partner, Jamison Firestone, with the Grand Jury of the Russian Union of Journalists (Russian version available at: http://russian-untouchables.com/docs/Letter%20to%20Journalist%20Union.pdf).

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Lawyers Under Siege in Putin’s Russia

Business Week reports:

Now it is the Russian lawyers’ turn.

Scores of journalists and businessmen have suffered beatings, harassment, and even assassination in Russia’s sometimes anarchic society. With the brazen daytime murder of human rights attorney Stanislav Markelov on Jan. 19, it became clear that members of the Russian bar are also targets in the murky vendettas that taint commerce and politics in Moscow and throughout the country.

It is not just lawyers alleging human rights abuses who are vulnerable. Corporate lawyers, too, face increasing threats. “It is now impossible in Russia to defend a client who is in a politically motivated case or in a [commercial] case where the other side has a lot of money and is willing to play dirty,” says Jamison R. Firestone, managing partner of Firestone Duncan, an American corporate law firm in Moscow. “At worst, you will end up in prison, in exile, or dead,” he adds.

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Special Extra: MARKELOV GUNNED DOWN!

Hero, Patriot Lawyer Stanislav Markelov

Hero, Patriot and Martyr: Lawyer Stanislav Markelov

No sooner had we published an editorial (below) decrying the injustice of releasing the brutal murderer Col. Yuri Budanov from prison than the lawyer for Budanov’s victim, 18-year-old Heda Kungayeva, was shot and killed in Moscow after leaving a news conference where he, too, expressed outrage at the release and announced his intention to challenge the release in court. The lawyer, Stanislav Markelov, was a renowned defender of human rights in Russia, director of the Rule of Law Institute and the attorney equivalent of Anna Politkovskaya (indeed, she was one of his clients), and now he has met the same fate as she did, the same fate Russia reserves for all her true patriots.

Anastasia Barurova

Anastasia Baburova

Anastasia Baburova, a Kremlin-critical journalist with the Novaya Gazeta newspaper which previously published Politkovskaya and at whose knee Barburova had studied, was at Markelov’s side and was also shot, but survived — only to perish hours later in the emergency room. She was NG’s correspondent on the Budanov story and had written extensively about it.   Markelov was shot from behind at 2 pm Moscow time by a silencer-equipped pistol at close range. It is being reported that Baburova was shot when she tried to pursue and seize the assassin after the first shots were fired.

Nobody even casually familiar with this blog can be surprised by this news; it is only the latest in a long string of political murders have have shadowed Vladimir Putin from his first months in the Kremlin. 

To the leaders of the Western democracies we can only say:  “How many deaths will it take til you know that too many Russians have died?”

NOTE:  Grusome photographs from the scene of the crime are here courtesy of Kommersant and Novaya Gazeta’s coverage is here (Russian link).

An Assault on Politkovskaya’s Attorney!

The Kremlin still fears mighty Anna

The Kremlin still fears mighty Anna

Paul Goble reports:

Two days before she was slated to appear at a preliminary hearing on the murder of Anna Politkovskaya, Karinna Moskalenko, who is serving as the lawyer for the family of the deceased and is currently in France, discovered that someone had placed a large quantity of mercury in her car in an apparent effort to poison her and her family. She and the members of her family are in satisfactory condition but will have to undergo treatment, Novaya Gazeta editor Sergey Sokolov said in an article posted on his newspaper’s website late last night. French police, he continued, are investigating the case at the present time.

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The Sunday Show Trial

The Moscow Times reports:

A senior federal judge has testified in court that a Kremlin official threatened to derail her career if she did not reverse a ruling handed down against the Federal Property Fund. Yelena Valyavina [pictured], first deputy chairwoman of the Supreme Arbitration Court, told Moscow’s Dorogomilovsky District Court that Valery Boyev, an adviser on personnel appointments in the presidential administration, said she would not be returned to her post if she refused to change her position, Kommersant reported Tuesday.

“I was told unambiguously [by Boyev] that if I wanted to be re-elected [to my position], I’d face problems,” Valyavina testified as a defense witness Monday in a libel lawsuit filed by Boyev against radio news program host Vladimir Solovyov.

On the Solovyiniye Treli program on Serebryany Dozhd radio, Solovyov said there were “no independent courts in Russia,” but there were “courts dependent on Boyev,” Kommersant reported.

In her testimony, Valyavina said Boyev asked her in the fall of 2005 to change her ruling regarding the proper ownership of a share package in Tolyattiazot, the country’s biggest producer of ammonia. She said Boyev made his threat when she refused to comply.
In 1996, the Samara region’s Property Fund sold a 6.1 percent stake in Tolyattiazot to joint Russian-Swiss agricultural company Tafco.

In March 2004, The Federal Property Ministry appealed the deal. After having its first two attempts turned down, a third appellate court ruled that the Tolyattiazot deal should be voided. The Supreme Arbitration Court overturned that ruling in November 2005.

Valyavina could not be reached at her office Tuesday afternoon.

Solovyov’s lawyer, Shota Gorgadze, praised Valyavina for her testimony Tuesday, calling it an “exceptionally courageous and heroic act.”

A source in the presidential administration, speaking on condition of anonymity, said “the final decision was up to the court.”

The next hearing in Boyev’s libel case is scheduled for May 26, Gorgadze said.

In 2001, then-deputy head of the presidential administration Dmitry Kozak introduced a legal reform program, part of which involved trying to guarantee greater independence for judges, although charges of governmental pressure on judges are made regularly in the legal community.

In a January campaign speech, President Dmitry Medvedev called Russia “a country of legal nihilism” with a “disregard for the law.” He has promised to strengthen the rule of law to fight corruption and to encourage growth.

Putin’s War on Lawyers

Paul Goble reports:

Together with other Russian law enforcement agencies, the FSB is now persecuting lawyers who defend individuals and groups the Kremlin doesn’t like, in ways that resemble the actions of the KGB in Soviet times, according to leaders of the All-Russian Congress of the Unions of Lawyers. Last Friday, speaker after speaker said that “along with the other problems of the legal profession,” Russian lawyers who defend people who have been charged with crimes for political reasons are now being persecuted in various ways by the Federal Security Service and other government agencies. The participants reported various incidents of “baseless persecution” of such defense counsel as Boris Kuznetsov, Serge Brovchenko, and Mikhail Trepashkin. And some of the lawyers attending the meeting distributed an open letter about this revival of this Soviet-era practice.

That letter described repeated incidents of “illegal actions” by FSB officers and about the unwillingness of the judges involved to do anything to protect the lawyers and the right of those charged with a crime to effective legal representation. The letter called on a senior judge “to personally intervene and not allow [this] open discrediting of the judicial system.” Other participants in this action said that “the problem of the persecution of lawyers for their professional activity by law-enforcement organs of Russia and, above all, by the FSB of the Russian Federation, [which were discussed at the congress] long ago became a norm of life” in post-Soviet Russia. “Unfortunately,” one of them pointed out, the government has not done anything to halt this or to take the steps needed to prevent the creation of a situation in which “soon there will not be any independent lawyers” in Russia “and citizens will have no one to turn to for their defense when their rights are violated by government officials.

Robert Amsterdam agrees:

It’s no secret that over the past six years, the Russian government has began to target the lawyers and partners of its perceived opponents – a successful Soviet-style method of creating a culture of fear, whereby the enemy of the state is left without any support. In the Yukos case, we’ve seen the medical blackmail (and possible manslaughter) of general counsel Vasily Alexanyan, the attempt to disbar Karinna Moskalenko, my forced exile from the country, as well as many other motley office raids and interference. We’re of course not the only ones. Just ask Boris Kuznetsov, Serge Brovchenko, and Mikhail Trepashkin (photograph) about the cost of performing their normal legitimate duties as lawyers.

The Neo-Soviet Attack on Lawyers Continues Apace

An editorial in Vedemosti, via the Moscow Times, shows how the cowardly cohorts of the Kremlin are attacking the attorneys of dissidents just as was done in Soviet times:

Lawyer Boris Kuznetsov fled Russia after Moscow’s Tverskoi District Court initiated a criminal case on Wednesday, charging him with the disclosure of state secrets. How could the lawyer have gained access to state secrets? The intelligence services and prosecutor’s office believe that Kuznetsov violated the law by copying and distributing secret wiretap recordings of his client, former Federation Council Senator Levon Chakhmakhchyan.

Having copied the wiretap records, Kuznetsov sent a copy of the tapes by mail to the Constitutional Court. There, employees — who had no security clearance — were able to analyze the material in the tapes and make them available to journalists.

Kuznetsov and his defense team point to Article 7 of the law regarding state secrets: “Information regarding the violation of a citizen’s rights and freedom shall not be regarded as classified.” Nonetheless, the district court made the decision about the purported criminal nature of Kuznetsov’s actions in two weeks. Moreover, even before the district court’s decision, authorities demanded that Kuznetsov sign a statement that prohibited him from disclosing facts of the case. This means that the authorities deliberately intended to classify the information on the tapes.

“The Kuznetsov Affair” is a fairly typical case. But it also represents a significant development because law enforcement agencies have recently intensified their battle against high-profile lawyers. Kuznetsov is one of them. This is how Kuznetsov articulated his credo: “If the evidence of innocence is located in a pile of crap and my hands are tied, I will obtain the evidence with my teeth.”

He fights to defend the rights of people whom the government has already predetermined to be guilty — for example, the scientist Igor Sutyagin and the founder of The Educated Media Foundation, Manana Aslamazian. Kuznetsov also investigated sensitive cases that the government has been trying to forget — for example, the reasons why the Kursk submarine sank in 2000, killing 118 sailors. In 2005, Kuznetsov published his findings in the book “It Sank: The Truth That Prosecutor General Ustinov Concealed About Kursk.” He also filed with the European Court of Human Rights the complaints of family members of sailors who died in the Kursk accident.

As a rule, there were previous attempts to remove lawyers from sensitive cases or revoke their licenses under fabricated pretexts. This was exactly the situation with the lawyers defending Yukos and with Karina Moskalenko, who represented Russian plaintiffs against the government in Strasbourg.

After being confronted with the corporate solidarity of lawyers, the intelligence services have resorted to initiating seemingly absurd cases against them. But these cases have very sharp teeth and threaten lawyers with the real risk of serious punishment. Kuznetsov could receive up to four years in prison (up to seven years under aggravated conditions) and a three-year prohibition against practicing law.

The KGB took similar measures in the 1970s and 1980s against lawyers who defended dissidents. The battle against lawyers is counterproductive because it undermines the authority of the entire judicial system. This could very well mean that an even higher number of cases will be sent to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg by Russians claiming that they have been denied their right of legal defense at home.

Authorities should remember that Russian defendants, who have become victims of persecution as a result of clan struggles or the fight for the ownership of property, will turn to “kamikaze lawyers” such as Kuznetsov who are not afraid of fighting against the system.

Winning Lawsuits the Old-Fashioned Way: Tossing Your Opponent’s Lawyer in Prison

The Moscow Times reports:

Prosecutors are looking into whether lawyer Boris Kuznetsov, who has defended numerous high-profile clients, illegally disclosed state secrets by publicizing evidence of Federal Security Service wiretapping practices. The City Prosecutor’s Office has asked Moscow’s Tverskoi District Court to determine whether Kuznetsov disclosed state secrets by appealing to the Constitutional Court over an FSB wiretap of his client, former Federation Council Senator Levon Chakhmakhchyan, the lawyer said Monday. Kuznetsov, who has defended numerous clients that have run afoul of authorities, said he believed the inquiry was connected to his professional activities in general. His clients have included Educated Media Foundation head Manana Aslamazian, as well as arms control researcher Igor Sutyagin, a scientist sentenced by a jury to 15 years in prison in 2004 on high treason charges. Kuznetsov insisted that the bugging of Chakhmakhchyan’s phone was a violation of the former senator’s human rights and therefore could not be considered a state secret. “Besides, the law states that information can’t be classified if it serves as evidence in a criminal case,” he said. Kuznetsov also said the bugging itself had been unlawful as it was carried out when Chakhmakhchyan enjoyed immunity from prosecution as a senator. Attempts to reach officials at the City Prosecutor’s Office and the Tverskoi District Court for comment were unsuccessful Monday. Chakhmakhchyan was arrested in February on suspicion of accepting a $300,000 bribe while in office. He was expelled from the Federation Council and stripped of immunity from prosecution last June after security agents claimed to have caught him with the bribe during a sting operation. The former senator from Kalmykia has consistently maintained his innocence.

Winning Lawsuits the Old-Fashioned Way: Tossing Your Opponent’s Lawyer in Prison

The Moscow Times reports:

Prosecutors are looking into whether lawyer Boris Kuznetsov, who has defended numerous high-profile clients, illegally disclosed state secrets by publicizing evidence of Federal Security Service wiretapping practices. The City Prosecutor’s Office has asked Moscow’s Tverskoi District Court to determine whether Kuznetsov disclosed state secrets by appealing to the Constitutional Court over an FSB wiretap of his client, former Federation Council Senator Levon Chakhmakhchyan, the lawyer said Monday. Kuznetsov, who has defended numerous clients that have run afoul of authorities, said he believed the inquiry was connected to his professional activities in general. His clients have included Educated Media Foundation head Manana Aslamazian, as well as arms control researcher Igor Sutyagin, a scientist sentenced by a jury to 15 years in prison in 2004 on high treason charges. Kuznetsov insisted that the bugging of Chakhmakhchyan’s phone was a violation of the former senator’s human rights and therefore could not be considered a state secret. “Besides, the law states that information can’t be classified if it serves as evidence in a criminal case,” he said. Kuznetsov also said the bugging itself had been unlawful as it was carried out when Chakhmakhchyan enjoyed immunity from prosecution as a senator. Attempts to reach officials at the City Prosecutor’s Office and the Tverskoi District Court for comment were unsuccessful Monday. Chakhmakhchyan was arrested in February on suspicion of accepting a $300,000 bribe while in office. He was expelled from the Federation Council and stripped of immunity from prosecution last June after security agents claimed to have caught him with the bribe during a sting operation. The former senator from Kalmykia has consistently maintained his innocence.

Winning Lawsuits the Old-Fashioned Way: Tossing Your Opponent’s Lawyer in Prison

The Moscow Times reports:

Prosecutors are looking into whether lawyer Boris Kuznetsov, who has defended numerous high-profile clients, illegally disclosed state secrets by publicizing evidence of Federal Security Service wiretapping practices. The City Prosecutor’s Office has asked Moscow’s Tverskoi District Court to determine whether Kuznetsov disclosed state secrets by appealing to the Constitutional Court over an FSB wiretap of his client, former Federation Council Senator Levon Chakhmakhchyan, the lawyer said Monday. Kuznetsov, who has defended numerous clients that have run afoul of authorities, said he believed the inquiry was connected to his professional activities in general. His clients have included Educated Media Foundation head Manana Aslamazian, as well as arms control researcher Igor Sutyagin, a scientist sentenced by a jury to 15 years in prison in 2004 on high treason charges. Kuznetsov insisted that the bugging of Chakhmakhchyan’s phone was a violation of the former senator’s human rights and therefore could not be considered a state secret. “Besides, the law states that information can’t be classified if it serves as evidence in a criminal case,” he said. Kuznetsov also said the bugging itself had been unlawful as it was carried out when Chakhmakhchyan enjoyed immunity from prosecution as a senator. Attempts to reach officials at the City Prosecutor’s Office and the Tverskoi District Court for comment were unsuccessful Monday. Chakhmakhchyan was arrested in February on suspicion of accepting a $300,000 bribe while in office. He was expelled from the Federation Council and stripped of immunity from prosecution last June after security agents claimed to have caught him with the bribe during a sting operation. The former senator from Kalmykia has consistently maintained his innocence.

Winning Lawsuits the Old-Fashioned Way: Tossing Your Opponent’s Lawyer in Prison

The Moscow Times reports:

Prosecutors are looking into whether lawyer Boris Kuznetsov, who has defended numerous high-profile clients, illegally disclosed state secrets by publicizing evidence of Federal Security Service wiretapping practices. The City Prosecutor’s Office has asked Moscow’s Tverskoi District Court to determine whether Kuznetsov disclosed state secrets by appealing to the Constitutional Court over an FSB wiretap of his client, former Federation Council Senator Levon Chakhmakhchyan, the lawyer said Monday. Kuznetsov, who has defended numerous clients that have run afoul of authorities, said he believed the inquiry was connected to his professional activities in general. His clients have included Educated Media Foundation head Manana Aslamazian, as well as arms control researcher Igor Sutyagin, a scientist sentenced by a jury to 15 years in prison in 2004 on high treason charges. Kuznetsov insisted that the bugging of Chakhmakhchyan’s phone was a violation of the former senator’s human rights and therefore could not be considered a state secret. “Besides, the law states that information can’t be classified if it serves as evidence in a criminal case,” he said. Kuznetsov also said the bugging itself had been unlawful as it was carried out when Chakhmakhchyan enjoyed immunity from prosecution as a senator. Attempts to reach officials at the City Prosecutor’s Office and the Tverskoi District Court for comment were unsuccessful Monday. Chakhmakhchyan was arrested in February on suspicion of accepting a $300,000 bribe while in office. He was expelled from the Federation Council and stripped of immunity from prosecution last June after security agents claimed to have caught him with the bribe during a sting operation. The former senator from Kalmykia has consistently maintained his innocence.

Winning Lawsuits the Old-Fashioned Way: Tossing Your Opponent’s Lawyer in Prison

The Moscow Times reports:

Prosecutors are looking into whether lawyer Boris Kuznetsov, who has defended numerous high-profile clients, illegally disclosed state secrets by publicizing evidence of Federal Security Service wiretapping practices. The City Prosecutor’s Office has asked Moscow’s Tverskoi District Court to determine whether Kuznetsov disclosed state secrets by appealing to the Constitutional Court over an FSB wiretap of his client, former Federation Council Senator Levon Chakhmakhchyan, the lawyer said Monday. Kuznetsov, who has defended numerous clients that have run afoul of authorities, said he believed the inquiry was connected to his professional activities in general. His clients have included Educated Media Foundation head Manana Aslamazian, as well as arms control researcher Igor Sutyagin, a scientist sentenced by a jury to 15 years in prison in 2004 on high treason charges. Kuznetsov insisted that the bugging of Chakhmakhchyan’s phone was a violation of the former senator’s human rights and therefore could not be considered a state secret. “Besides, the law states that information can’t be classified if it serves as evidence in a criminal case,” he said. Kuznetsov also said the bugging itself had been unlawful as it was carried out when Chakhmakhchyan enjoyed immunity from prosecution as a senator. Attempts to reach officials at the City Prosecutor’s Office and the Tverskoi District Court for comment were unsuccessful Monday. Chakhmakhchyan was arrested in February on suspicion of accepting a $300,000 bribe while in office. He was expelled from the Federation Council and stripped of immunity from prosecution last June after security agents claimed to have caught him with the bribe during a sting operation. The former senator from Kalmykia has consistently maintained his innocence.

The Story of Yet Another Heroic Russian Woman

The Wall Street Journal reports more details on the saga of Garry Kasparov’s lawyer, now facing persecution from the Kremlin for daring to represent her client:

Karinna Moskalenko is Russia’s most distinguished human-rights lawyer. Vladimir Putin wants her disbarred.

Ms. Moskalenko, 53, is the founder of the Moscow-based International Protection Center. For more than a decade, she has been arguing cases before the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France, to whose judgments Russia has been legally bound ever since it incorporated the European Convention on Human Rights in its 1993 Constitution. “We started with dozens of cases,” she says, recalling the IPC’s earliest days during the Yeltsin era. “We are now dealing with hundreds of cases.”

Today, her clients include the imprisoned former Yukos CEO Mikhail Khodorkovsky, chess champion and opposition leader Garry Kasparov and the family of murdered journalist Anna Politkovskaya. She also represents the victims of the 2002 “Nord-Ost” Moscow theater hostage crisis, and the relatives of Chechen civilians who have been tortured, murdered or disappeared in Russian “counterterrorism” operations.

With its minuscule staff of eight lawyers and 20 trainees, the IPC receives roughly 12,000 requests for representation a year, though most lack adequate documentation to be brought to trial. Still, her current caseload in Strasbourg, totaling about 180, represents the lion’s share of the court’s docket, and she knows how to get results: Her victory in the 2002 Kalashnikov case–involving a man who had been held in pre-trial detention for five years in cramped and disease-ridden conditions–forced the Russian government to embark on its first serious attempt at modernizing its prison system.

Such work has earned Ms. Moskalenko no shortage of formal tributes outside of Russia. In 2003 she was elected to the International Commission of Jurists; in 2006 she won the International Helsinki Federation’s Human Rights Recognition Award. Within Russia it’s a different story. Mr. Putin’s government assault on the IPC began by questioning the validity of its original registration. Next it proceeded to a tax audit–a favorite Putin tactic against financially strapped human-rights NGOs–on the theory that the IPC had used funds from the National Endowment for Democracy and the Ford and MacArthur Foundations for profit-taking. Though the government’s claims were easily disproven, it refuses formally to close the case.

But for sheer chutzpah nothing approaches the government’s attempts to disbar Ms. Moskalenko on the grounds that she has incompetently represented Mr. Khodorkovsky–a remarkable bit of solicitude for a man whose sentence to a Siberian prison camp has just been extended. According to a motion filed April 18 by the prosecutor general’s office with the Russian registration service, Ms. Moskalenko failed her client in February when she was forced to leave a lawyers’ conference with Mr. Khodorkovsky a day early to attend to her sick 14-year-old son. “This [motion] has been decided at a high level, though we don’t know who exactly ordered it,” says Ms. Moskalenko. Prosecutor General Yuri Chaika was until last year Mr. Putin’s minister of justice.

The story of what happened to Ms. Moskalenko on that visit to Siberia is worth telling, if only for the light it sheds on the government’s efforts–by turns petty and sinister–to harass her and her team. On Feb. 4, she arrived at Moscow’s Domodedovo airport to discover that the rest of her legal team had been “detained” by police and Interior Ministry officials who seized their passports, ransacked their luggage and inspected confidential documents related to cases before the Strasbourg court, including Mr. Khodorkovsky’s, before allowing them to board the plane. On her return, Ms. Moskalenko was again detained by officials who forced her to sign papers forbidding her from disclosing the details of the government’s new case against Mr. Khodorkovsky. On account of her son–whose ill health the authorities were aware of–she signed.

Ms. Moskalenko speculates that the current disbarment action stems from the legal fuss she raised about the incidents at the airport. “After I complained to the prosecutor general they reconsidered what to do about me. They stopped abusing me at the airports. Instead, they decided to finish my career.” The motion will first have to wind its way through a special committee of the Moscow bar, but failing that the government can file for her disbarment in court. “There’s no precedent that I know of for this,” she says. “They will make an experiment of me.”

Disbarment would effectively put an end to Ms. Moskalenko’s career in Russia, including her efforts (the latest as recently as yesterday) to defend Mr. Kasparov’s political activities in court. It would also require her to seek approval from the presidency of the Strasbourg court every time she sought to bring a case to trial, just the sort of humiliation in which Mr. Putin’s government delights.

Yet it’s the broader ramifications of the government’s actions that most concern Ms. Moskalenko. While she scrupulously avoids mentioning Mr. Putin by name–”I am strictly not a politician,” she says more than once–she is under no illusions about his methods. In today’s Russia, “it isn’t necessary to put all the businessmen in jail. It is necessary to jail the richest, the most independent, the most well-connected. It isn’t necessary to kill all the journalists. Just kill the most outstanding, the bravest, and the others will get the message. Nobody is untouchable. I tell Kasparov: ‘Look, you are not untouchable.’ “

For now, however, it is Ms. Moskalenko herself who is in Mr. Putin’s sights–a dangerous place to be, given the experience of so many of her clients. Characteristically, she isn’t budging. Robert Amsterdam, a Canadian lawyer on Mr. Khodorkovsky’s defense team, recalls that when he was arrested in September 2005 by Russian security services, she was the first person he called. “These thugs from the secret police wouldn’t give us their IDs,” he says. “So Karinna takes her cell phone and clicks their pictures. The woman is completely fearless. And there’s nothing that scares these people more than someone who is fearless, someone who puts principle above safety or social standing.”

Mr. Amsterdam’s story is a testament to the courage and tenacity of a woman in the face of a regime whose threats must never be taken lightly. One wonders whether Condoleezza Rice, now in Moscow to meet with Mr. Putin, can show if she’s made of the same stuff. Raising Ms. Moskalenko’s case would be a start.

LR: They’re right! Show us what you’re made of, Condi!

On the Politicization of Russia’s Lawyers

It was only a matter of time. Gazeta.ru has reports on the Kremlinization of the legal profession (Robert Amsterdam has been documenting the crude manner in which the Kremlin has sought to crush the Khodorkhovsky legal team, and apparently now the circle is widening). The translation comes through Xignite.

Sergey Stepashin, the chairman of the Russian Jurists Association, intends to carry out a purge of the ranks. The businessman Dmitriy Shumkov, the secretary of the commission for legal culture and promoting law, has become the first candidate for departure. He is accused of using the association as a headquarters for presidential candidate Dmitriy Medvedev.

The Russian Jurists Association [AYuR] back in the autumn of last year declared itself a community, which will, possibly, support First Deputy Prime Minister Dmitriy Medvedev in the elections in 2008. Gazeta.Ru wrote that the founding conference of the AYuR in its current incarnation took place on 15 November and sources in the association’s leadership back then told Gazeta.Ru that it might become a prototype electoral headquarters for “the successor” Medvedev. At the same time the AYuR, whose head at the time was Oleg Kutafin – who twice initiated Vladimir Putin’s nomination as president – announced plans to open a network of organizations in the Russian regions offering legal assistance to the population. This, the experts noted, would enable almost the entire territory of Russia to be enveloped by Medvedev’s “emissaries” under election conditions. By the end of January this year, the AYuR had already manifestly taken Medvedev’s side. The “successor” visited a session of the AYuR presidium, where he declared that a special legal television channel for citizens would be set up – Pravo-TV – which was also regarded as an addition to “the successor’s” media assets.

However, on Monday [19 February] a flaw appeared in the harmonious picture of relations between the AYuR and Dmitriy Medvedev. Sergey Stepashin, the current chairman of the AYuR (elected in January 2007) as well as the head of the Comptroller’s Office, suggested carrying out a purge of the AYuR ranks. Anyone seen using the association’s resources for political or commercial purposes should be stripped of their membership. The first candidate for departure is businessman and professor of the Civil Service Academy Dmitriy Shumkov, who is close to Medvedev.

“We have decided to clean out our ranks. We have, in particular, a certain Dmitriy Shumkov who declares everywhere that he is creating an election headquarters for Dmitriy Medvedev – some public receptions. And he has now even got as far as Sochi, has engaged in Olympic matters,” Stepashin stated on Monday. “In short, we must look very seriously at who is in association with us today.”

Stepashin added that a re-organization of the ranks was already in full swing: “We have decided to strengthen the association’s board, Pavel Krasheninnikov has been elected its chairman, he heads one of the most complicated committees in the State Duma, on legislation. A program has been adopted, which we have approved at the presidium, so a great deal of very serious work lies ahead.”

From today’s statement by Stepashin, it follows that he has little idea of which Shumkov he is talking about, otherwise he would not call him a “certain” head of the AYuR. Dmitriy Shumkov occupied quite a prominent position in the reform of the AYuR. Thus, at the same presidium sitting in January at which Stepashin was elected head of the association, an AYuR commission for legal culture and promoting law was founded and its members included Deputy Prosecutor-Generals Aleksandr Bastrykin, Aleksandr Zvyagintsev, Yevgeniy Zabarchuk, FSB [Federal Security Service] Deputy Director Yuriy Gorbunov, Deputy Interior Minister Oleg Safonov, Senator Lyudmila Narusova, Deputy Aleksandr Khinshteyn and others. Shumkov became executive secretary of the commission and was responsible in the first instance for the creation of the legal centers. Moreover, as Krasheninnikov said in an interview to the Kommersant newspaper after the January session, Medvedev even praised Shumkov for his work in developing the network of 24,000 free legal consultation offices.

However, even last week Stepashin had started to hint that he did not like some politicized figures in the association. The head of the Comptroller’s Office started to speak for the first time about unscrupulous members of the AYuR, admittedly without mentioning names, at the conference “Notaries, State Power and Civil Society” which took place in Moscow on 15-16 February. Talking about the legal centers project, Stepashin stated: “I would like to take advantage of the situation to say that, unfortunately, someone in our ranks has tried to use this aspect of our work. Legal Ostap Benders [REFERENCE to the hero of the Russian novel Dvenadtsat Stulyev] have appeared who have nothing to do with the Jurists Association. They are trying to present such centers as the headquarters for one of the candidates for the post of president, although there are not yet any candidates.”

We were unable to get any comment on Stepashin’s speech in the AYuR. Deputy Aleksandr Khinshteyn, a member of the commission for legal culture and promoting law, for the moment refuses to given any comments on the “purge” of the association’s ranks. Shumkov himself is not accessible for comments either.

In the opinion of Aleksey Mukhin, the director of the Center for Political Information, the entire situation looks like a “misunderstanding”. “It looks like a provocation both on the part of Shumkov and on the part of Stepashin,” he explained to Gazeta.Ru. The expert does not rule out that Shumkov could have been misunderstood. In actual fact, this is quite possible since there are no clear assertions by AYuR officials in the press that the network of legal centers being created are Medvedev’s campaign headquarters.

If you take into account the fact that the topic of lawyers as part of the political battle is not being raised for the first time, it cannot be ruled out that the chairman of the association has himself decided to start a political battle. “This may mean that Stepashin has joined in the political battle on the side of another successor candidate,” Mukhin thinks. Taking into account the fact that Sergey Ivanov, the new first deputy prime mister, is now another identifiable candidate, the head of the AYuR is coming out on his side. Nevertheless, the expert thinks that we need to wait for new explanations from the association.

Dmitriy Shumkov is a professor at the Civil Service Academy and is considered a member of Medvedev’s entourage. Moreover, he heads a legal company, “Shumkov and Partners”, the Pravokom group of companies and the Allure Foundation. It was as head of the foundation that Shumkov acted as partner of the bid committee for the holding of the Olympics in Sochi in 2014. Reports appeared last week that the Allure Foundation had acquired 50 percent of the shares in the French company Lacroix Luxe Sport, which produces skis. The owners of the company intended to invest around 300 million dollars in Sochi, together with representatives of the Russian state structures. However, on Sunday Skis Lacroix denied the reports in the Russian media about the sale of a share holding to the Russian entrepreneur.

On the Politicization of Russia’s Lawyers

It was only a matter of time. Gazeta.ru has reports on the Kremlinization of the legal profession (Robert Amsterdam has been documenting the crude manner in which the Kremlin has sought to crush the Khodorkhovsky legal team, and apparently now the circle is widening). The translation comes through Xignite.

Sergey Stepashin, the chairman of the Russian Jurists Association, intends to carry out a purge of the ranks. The businessman Dmitriy Shumkov, the secretary of the commission for legal culture and promoting law, has become the first candidate for departure. He is accused of using the association as a headquarters for presidential candidate Dmitriy Medvedev.

The Russian Jurists Association [AYuR] back in the autumn of last year declared itself a community, which will, possibly, support First Deputy Prime Minister Dmitriy Medvedev in the elections in 2008. Gazeta.Ru wrote that the founding conference of the AYuR in its current incarnation took place on 15 November and sources in the association’s leadership back then told Gazeta.Ru that it might become a prototype electoral headquarters for “the successor” Medvedev. At the same time the AYuR, whose head at the time was Oleg Kutafin – who twice initiated Vladimir Putin’s nomination as president – announced plans to open a network of organizations in the Russian regions offering legal assistance to the population. This, the experts noted, would enable almost the entire territory of Russia to be enveloped by Medvedev’s “emissaries” under election conditions. By the end of January this year, the AYuR had already manifestly taken Medvedev’s side. The “successor” visited a session of the AYuR presidium, where he declared that a special legal television channel for citizens would be set up – Pravo-TV – which was also regarded as an addition to “the successor’s” media assets.

However, on Monday [19 February] a flaw appeared in the harmonious picture of relations between the AYuR and Dmitriy Medvedev. Sergey Stepashin, the current chairman of the AYuR (elected in January 2007) as well as the head of the Comptroller’s Office, suggested carrying out a purge of the AYuR ranks. Anyone seen using the association’s resources for political or commercial purposes should be stripped of their membership. The first candidate for departure is businessman and professor of the Civil Service Academy Dmitriy Shumkov, who is close to Medvedev.

“We have decided to clean out our ranks. We have, in particular, a certain Dmitriy Shumkov who declares everywhere that he is creating an election headquarters for Dmitriy Medvedev – some public receptions. And he has now even got as far as Sochi, has engaged in Olympic matters,” Stepashin stated on Monday. “In short, we must look very seriously at who is in association with us today.”

Stepashin added that a re-organization of the ranks was already in full swing: “We have decided to strengthen the association’s board, Pavel Krasheninnikov has been elected its chairman, he heads one of the most complicated committees in the State Duma, on legislation. A program has been adopted, which we have approved at the presidium, so a great deal of very serious work lies ahead.”

From today’s statement by Stepashin, it follows that he has little idea of which Shumkov he is talking about, otherwise he would not call him a “certain” head of the AYuR. Dmitriy Shumkov occupied quite a prominent position in the reform of the AYuR. Thus, at the same presidium sitting in January at which Stepashin was elected head of the association, an AYuR commission for legal culture and promoting law was founded and its members included Deputy Prosecutor-Generals Aleksandr Bastrykin, Aleksandr Zvyagintsev, Yevgeniy Zabarchuk, FSB [Federal Security Service] Deputy Director Yuriy Gorbunov, Deputy Interior Minister Oleg Safonov, Senator Lyudmila Narusova, Deputy Aleksandr Khinshteyn and others. Shumkov became executive secretary of the commission and was responsible in the first instance for the creation of the legal centers. Moreover, as Krasheninnikov said in an interview to the Kommersant newspaper after the January session, Medvedev even praised Shumkov for his work in developing the network of 24,000 free legal consultation offices.

However, even last week Stepashin had started to hint that he did not like some politicized figures in the association. The head of the Comptroller’s Office started to speak for the first time about unscrupulous members of the AYuR, admittedly without mentioning names, at the conference “Notaries, State Power and Civil Society” which took place in Moscow on 15-16 February. Talking about the legal centers project, Stepashin stated: “I would like to take advantage of the situation to say that, unfortunately, someone in our ranks has tried to use this aspect of our work. Legal Ostap Benders [REFERENCE to the hero of the Russian novel Dvenadtsat Stulyev] have appeared who have nothing to do with the Jurists Association. They are trying to present such centers as the headquarters for one of the candidates for the post of president, although there are not yet any candidates.”

We were unable to get any comment on Stepashin’s speech in the AYuR. Deputy Aleksandr Khinshteyn, a member of the commission for legal culture and promoting law, for the moment refuses to given any comments on the “purge” of the association’s ranks. Shumkov himself is not accessible for comments either.

In the opinion of Aleksey Mukhin, the director of the Center for Political Information, the entire situation looks like a “misunderstanding”. “It looks like a provocation both on the part of Shumkov and on the part of Stepashin,” he explained to Gazeta.Ru. The expert does not rule out that Shumkov could have been misunderstood. In actual fact, this is quite possible since there are no clear assertions by AYuR officials in the press that the network of legal centers being created are Medvedev’s campaign headquarters.

If you take into account the fact that the topic of lawyers as part of the political battle is not being raised for the first time, it cannot be ruled out that the chairman of the association has himself decided to start a political battle. “This may mean that Stepashin has joined in the political battle on the side of another successor candidate,” Mukhin thinks. Taking into account the fact that Sergey Ivanov, the new first deputy prime mister, is now another identifiable candidate, the head of the AYuR is coming out on his side. Nevertheless, the expert thinks that we need to wait for new explanations from the association.

Dmitriy Shumkov is a professor at the Civil Service Academy and is considered a member of Medvedev’s entourage. Moreover, he heads a legal company, “Shumkov and Partners”, the Pravokom group of companies and the Allure Foundation. It was as head of the foundation that Shumkov acted as partner of the bid committee for the holding of the Olympics in Sochi in 2014. Reports appeared last week that the Allure Foundation had acquired 50 percent of the shares in the French company Lacroix Luxe Sport, which produces skis. The owners of the company intended to invest around 300 million dollars in Sochi, together with representatives of the Russian state structures. However, on Sunday Skis Lacroix denied the reports in the Russian media about the sale of a share holding to the Russian entrepreneur.

On the Politicization of Russia’s Lawyers

It was only a matter of time. Gazeta.ru has reports on the Kremlinization of the legal profession (Robert Amsterdam has been documenting the crude manner in which the Kremlin has sought to crush the Khodorkhovsky legal team, and apparently now the circle is widening). The translation comes through Xignite.

Sergey Stepashin, the chairman of the Russian Jurists Association, intends to carry out a purge of the ranks. The businessman Dmitriy Shumkov, the secretary of the commission for legal culture and promoting law, has become the first candidate for departure. He is accused of using the association as a headquarters for presidential candidate Dmitriy Medvedev.

The Russian Jurists Association [AYuR] back in the autumn of last year declared itself a community, which will, possibly, support First Deputy Prime Minister Dmitriy Medvedev in the elections in 2008. Gazeta.Ru wrote that the founding conference of the AYuR in its current incarnation took place on 15 November and sources in the association’s leadership back then told Gazeta.Ru that it might become a prototype electoral headquarters for “the successor” Medvedev. At the same time the AYuR, whose head at the time was Oleg Kutafin – who twice initiated Vladimir Putin’s nomination as president – announced plans to open a network of organizations in the Russian regions offering legal assistance to the population. This, the experts noted, would enable almost the entire territory of Russia to be enveloped by Medvedev’s “emissaries” under election conditions. By the end of January this year, the AYuR had already manifestly taken Medvedev’s side. The “successor” visited a session of the AYuR presidium, where he declared that a special legal television channel for citizens would be set up – Pravo-TV – which was also regarded as an addition to “the successor’s” media assets.

However, on Monday [19 February] a flaw appeared in the harmonious picture of relations between the AYuR and Dmitriy Medvedev. Sergey Stepashin, the current chairman of the AYuR (elected in January 2007) as well as the head of the Comptroller’s Office, suggested carrying out a purge of the AYuR ranks. Anyone seen using the association’s resources for political or commercial purposes should be stripped of their membership. The first candidate for departure is businessman and professor of the Civil Service Academy Dmitriy Shumkov, who is close to Medvedev.

“We have decided to clean out our ranks. We have, in particular, a certain Dmitriy Shumkov who declares everywhere that he is creating an election headquarters for Dmitriy Medvedev – some public receptions. And he has now even got as far as Sochi, has engaged in Olympic matters,” Stepashin stated on Monday. “In short, we must look very seriously at who is in association with us today.”

Stepashin added that a re-organization of the ranks was already in full swing: “We have decided to strengthen the association’s board, Pavel Krasheninnikov has been elected its chairman, he heads one of the most complicated committees in the State Duma, on legislation. A program has been adopted, which we have approved at the presidium, so a great deal of very serious work lies ahead.”

From today’s statement by Stepashin, it follows that he has little idea of which Shumkov he is talking about, otherwise he would not call him a “certain” head of the AYuR. Dmitriy Shumkov occupied quite a prominent position in the reform of the AYuR. Thus, at the same presidium sitting in January at which Stepashin was elected head of the association, an AYuR commission for legal culture and promoting law was founded and its members included Deputy Prosecutor-Generals Aleksandr Bastrykin, Aleksandr Zvyagintsev, Yevgeniy Zabarchuk, FSB [Federal Security Service] Deputy Director Yuriy Gorbunov, Deputy Interior Minister Oleg Safonov, Senator Lyudmila Narusova, Deputy Aleksandr Khinshteyn and others. Shumkov became executive secretary of the commission and was responsible in the first instance for the creation of the legal centers. Moreover, as Krasheninnikov said in an interview to the Kommersant newspaper after the January session, Medvedev even praised Shumkov for his work in developing the network of 24,000 free legal consultation offices.

However, even last week Stepashin had started to hint that he did not like some politicized figures in the association. The head of the Comptroller’s Office started to speak for the first time about unscrupulous members of the AYuR, admittedly without mentioning names, at the conference “Notaries, State Power and Civil Society” which took place in Moscow on 15-16 February. Talking about the legal centers project, Stepashin stated: “I would like to take advantage of the situation to say that, unfortunately, someone in our ranks has tried to use this aspect of our work. Legal Ostap Benders [REFERENCE to the hero of the Russian novel Dvenadtsat Stulyev] have appeared who have nothing to do with the Jurists Association. They are trying to present such centers as the headquarters for one of the candidates for the post of president, although there are not yet any candidates.”

We were unable to get any comment on Stepashin’s speech in the AYuR. Deputy Aleksandr Khinshteyn, a member of the commission for legal culture and promoting law, for the moment refuses to given any comments on the “purge” of the association’s ranks. Shumkov himself is not accessible for comments either.

In the opinion of Aleksey Mukhin, the director of the Center for Political Information, the entire situation looks like a “misunderstanding”. “It looks like a provocation both on the part of Shumkov and on the part of Stepashin,” he explained to Gazeta.Ru. The expert does not rule out that Shumkov could have been misunderstood. In actual fact, this is quite possible since there are no clear assertions by AYuR officials in the press that the network of legal centers being created are Medvedev’s campaign headquarters.

If you take into account the fact that the topic of lawyers as part of the political battle is not being raised for the first time, it cannot be ruled out that the chairman of the association has himself decided to start a political battle. “This may mean that Stepashin has joined in the political battle on the side of another successor candidate,” Mukhin thinks. Taking into account the fact that Sergey Ivanov, the new first deputy prime mister, is now another identifiable candidate, the head of the AYuR is coming out on his side. Nevertheless, the expert thinks that we need to wait for new explanations from the association.

Dmitriy Shumkov is a professor at the Civil Service Academy and is considered a member of Medvedev’s entourage. Moreover, he heads a legal company, “Shumkov and Partners”, the Pravokom group of companies and the Allure Foundation. It was as head of the foundation that Shumkov acted as partner of the bid committee for the holding of the Olympics in Sochi in 2014. Reports appeared last week that the Allure Foundation had acquired 50 percent of the shares in the French company Lacroix Luxe Sport, which produces skis. The owners of the company intended to invest around 300 million dollars in Sochi, together with representatives of the Russian state structures. However, on Sunday Skis Lacroix denied the reports in the Russian media about the sale of a share holding to the Russian entrepreneur.

On the Politicization of Russia’s Lawyers

It was only a matter of time. Gazeta.ru has reports on the Kremlinization of the legal profession (Robert Amsterdam has been documenting the crude manner in which the Kremlin has sought to crush the Khodorkhovsky legal team, and apparently now the circle is widening). The translation comes through Xignite.

Sergey Stepashin, the chairman of the Russian Jurists Association, intends to carry out a purge of the ranks. The businessman Dmitriy Shumkov, the secretary of the commission for legal culture and promoting law, has become the first candidate for departure. He is accused of using the association as a headquarters for presidential candidate Dmitriy Medvedev.

The Russian Jurists Association [AYuR] back in the autumn of last year declared itself a community, which will, possibly, support First Deputy Prime Minister Dmitriy Medvedev in the elections in 2008. Gazeta.Ru wrote that the founding conference of the AYuR in its current incarnation took place on 15 November and sources in the association’s leadership back then told Gazeta.Ru that it might become a prototype electoral headquarters for “the successor” Medvedev. At the same time the AYuR, whose head at the time was Oleg Kutafin – who twice initiated Vladimir Putin’s nomination as president – announced plans to open a network of organizations in the Russian regions offering legal assistance to the population. This, the experts noted, would enable almost the entire territory of Russia to be enveloped by Medvedev’s “emissaries” under election conditions. By the end of January this year, the AYuR had already manifestly taken Medvedev’s side. The “successor” visited a session of the AYuR presidium, where he declared that a special legal television channel for citizens would be set up – Pravo-TV – which was also regarded as an addition to “the successor’s” media assets.

However, on Monday [19 February] a flaw appeared in the harmonious picture of relations between the AYuR and Dmitriy Medvedev. Sergey Stepashin, the current chairman of the AYuR (elected in January 2007) as well as the head of the Comptroller’s Office, suggested carrying out a purge of the AYuR ranks. Anyone seen using the association’s resources for political or commercial purposes should be stripped of their membership. The first candidate for departure is businessman and professor of the Civil Service Academy Dmitriy Shumkov, who is close to Medvedev.

“We have decided to clean out our ranks. We have, in particular, a certain Dmitriy Shumkov who declares everywhere that he is creating an election headquarters for Dmitriy Medvedev – some public receptions. And he has now even got as far as Sochi, has engaged in Olympic matters,” Stepashin stated on Monday. “In short, we must look very seriously at who is in association with us today.”

Stepashin added that a re-organization of the ranks was already in full swing: “We have decided to strengthen the association’s board, Pavel Krasheninnikov has been elected its chairman, he heads one of the most complicated committees in the State Duma, on legislation. A program has been adopted, which we have approved at the presidium, so a great deal of very serious work lies ahead.”

From today’s statement by Stepashin, it follows that he has little idea of which Shumkov he is talking about, otherwise he would not call him a “certain” head of the AYuR. Dmitriy Shumkov occupied quite a prominent position in the reform of the AYuR. Thus, at the same presidium sitting in January at which Stepashin was elected head of the association, an AYuR commission for legal culture and promoting law was founded and its members included Deputy Prosecutor-Generals Aleksandr Bastrykin, Aleksandr Zvyagintsev, Yevgeniy Zabarchuk, FSB [Federal Security Service] Deputy Director Yuriy Gorbunov, Deputy Interior Minister Oleg Safonov, Senator Lyudmila Narusova, Deputy Aleksandr Khinshteyn and others. Shumkov became executive secretary of the commission and was responsible in the first instance for the creation of the legal centers. Moreover, as Krasheninnikov said in an interview to the Kommersant newspaper after the January session, Medvedev even praised Shumkov for his work in developing the network of 24,000 free legal consultation offices.

However, even last week Stepashin had started to hint that he did not like some politicized figures in the association. The head of the Comptroller’s Office started to speak for the first time about unscrupulous members of the AYuR, admittedly without mentioning names, at the conference “Notaries, State Power and Civil Society” which took place in Moscow on 15-16 February. Talking about the legal centers project, Stepashin stated: “I would like to take advantage of the situation to say that, unfortunately, someone in our ranks has tried to use this aspect of our work. Legal Ostap Benders [REFERENCE to the hero of the Russian novel Dvenadtsat Stulyev] have appeared who have nothing to do with the Jurists Association. They are trying to present such centers as the headquarters for one of the candidates for the post of president, although there are not yet any candidates.”

We were unable to get any comment on Stepashin’s speech in the AYuR. Deputy Aleksandr Khinshteyn, a member of the commission for legal culture and promoting law, for the moment refuses to given any comments on the “purge” of the association’s ranks. Shumkov himself is not accessible for comments either.

In the opinion of Aleksey Mukhin, the director of the Center for Political Information, the entire situation looks like a “misunderstanding”. “It looks like a provocation both on the part of Shumkov and on the part of Stepashin,” he explained to Gazeta.Ru. The expert does not rule out that Shumkov could have been misunderstood. In actual fact, this is quite possible since there are no clear assertions by AYuR officials in the press that the network of legal centers being created are Medvedev’s campaign headquarters.

If you take into account the fact that the topic of lawyers as part of the political battle is not being raised for the first time, it cannot be ruled out that the chairman of the association has himself decided to start a political battle. “This may mean that Stepashin has joined in the political battle on the side of another successor candidate,” Mukhin thinks. Taking into account the fact that Sergey Ivanov, the new first deputy prime mister, is now another identifiable candidate, the head of the AYuR is coming out on his side. Nevertheless, the expert thinks that we need to wait for new explanations from the association.

Dmitriy Shumkov is a professor at the Civil Service Academy and is considered a member of Medvedev’s entourage. Moreover, he heads a legal company, “Shumkov and Partners”, the Pravokom group of companies and the Allure Foundation. It was as head of the foundation that Shumkov acted as partner of the bid committee for the holding of the Olympics in Sochi in 2014. Reports appeared last week that the Allure Foundation had acquired 50 percent of the shares in the French company Lacroix Luxe Sport, which produces skis. The owners of the company intended to invest around 300 million dollars in Sochi, together with representatives of the Russian state structures. However, on Sunday Skis Lacroix denied the reports in the Russian media about the sale of a share holding to the Russian entrepreneur.

On the Politicization of Russia’s Lawyers

It was only a matter of time. Gazeta.ru has reports on the Kremlinization of the legal profession (Robert Amsterdam has been documenting the crude manner in which the Kremlin has sought to crush the Khodorkhovsky legal team, and apparently now the circle is widening). The translation comes through Xignite.

Sergey Stepashin, the chairman of the Russian Jurists Association, intends to carry out a purge of the ranks. The businessman Dmitriy Shumkov, the secretary of the commission for legal culture and promoting law, has become the first candidate for departure. He is accused of using the association as a headquarters for presidential candidate Dmitriy Medvedev.

The Russian Jurists Association [AYuR] back in the autumn of last year declared itself a community, which will, possibly, support First Deputy Prime Minister Dmitriy Medvedev in the elections in 2008. Gazeta.Ru wrote that the founding conference of the AYuR in its current incarnation took place on 15 November and sources in the association’s leadership back then told Gazeta.Ru that it might become a prototype electoral headquarters for “the successor” Medvedev. At the same time the AYuR, whose head at the time was Oleg Kutafin – who twice initiated Vladimir Putin’s nomination as president – announced plans to open a network of organizations in the Russian regions offering legal assistance to the population. This, the experts noted, would enable almost the entire territory of Russia to be enveloped by Medvedev’s “emissaries” under election conditions. By the end of January this year, the AYuR had already manifestly taken Medvedev’s side. The “successor” visited a session of the AYuR presidium, where he declared that a special legal television channel for citizens would be set up – Pravo-TV – which was also regarded as an addition to “the successor’s” media assets.

However, on Monday [19 February] a flaw appeared in the harmonious picture of relations between the AYuR and Dmitriy Medvedev. Sergey Stepashin, the current chairman of the AYuR (elected in January 2007) as well as the head of the Comptroller’s Office, suggested carrying out a purge of the AYuR ranks. Anyone seen using the association’s resources for political or commercial purposes should be stripped of their membership. The first candidate for departure is businessman and professor of the Civil Service Academy Dmitriy Shumkov, who is close to Medvedev.

“We have decided to clean out our ranks. We have, in particular, a certain Dmitriy Shumkov who declares everywhere that he is creating an election headquarters for Dmitriy Medvedev – some public receptions. And he has now even got as far as Sochi, has engaged in Olympic matters,” Stepashin stated on Monday. “In short, we must look very seriously at who is in association with us today.”

Stepashin added that a re-organization of the ranks was already in full swing: “We have decided to strengthen the association’s board, Pavel Krasheninnikov has been elected its chairman, he heads one of the most complicated committees in the State Duma, on legislation. A program has been adopted, which we have approved at the presidium, so a great deal of very serious work lies ahead.”

From today’s statement by Stepashin, it follows that he has little idea of which Shumkov he is talking about, otherwise he would not call him a “certain” head of the AYuR. Dmitriy Shumkov occupied quite a prominent position in the reform of the AYuR. Thus, at the same presidium sitting in January at which Stepashin was elected head of the association, an AYuR commission for legal culture and promoting law was founded and its members included Deputy Prosecutor-Generals Aleksandr Bastrykin, Aleksandr Zvyagintsev, Yevgeniy Zabarchuk, FSB [Federal Security Service] Deputy Director Yuriy Gorbunov, Deputy Interior Minister Oleg Safonov, Senator Lyudmila Narusova, Deputy Aleksandr Khinshteyn and others. Shumkov became executive secretary of the commission and was responsible in the first instance for the creation of the legal centers. Moreover, as Krasheninnikov said in an interview to the Kommersant newspaper after the January session, Medvedev even praised Shumkov for his work in developing the network of 24,000 free legal consultation offices.

However, even last week Stepashin had started to hint that he did not like some politicized figures in the association. The head of the Comptroller’s Office started to speak for the first time about unscrupulous members of the AYuR, admittedly without mentioning names, at the conference “Notaries, State Power and Civil Society” which took place in Moscow on 15-16 February. Talking about the legal centers project, Stepashin stated: “I would like to take advantage of the situation to say that, unfortunately, someone in our ranks has tried to use this aspect of our work. Legal Ostap Benders [REFERENCE to the hero of the Russian novel Dvenadtsat Stulyev] have appeared who have nothing to do with the Jurists Association. They are trying to present such centers as the headquarters for one of the candidates for the post of president, although there are not yet any candidates.”

We were unable to get any comment on Stepashin’s speech in the AYuR. Deputy Aleksandr Khinshteyn, a member of the commission for legal culture and promoting law, for the moment refuses to given any comments on the “purge” of the association’s ranks. Shumkov himself is not accessible for comments either.

In the opinion of Aleksey Mukhin, the director of the Center for Political Information, the entire situation looks like a “misunderstanding”. “It looks like a provocation both on the part of Shumkov and on the part of Stepashin,” he explained to Gazeta.Ru. The expert does not rule out that Shumkov could have been misunderstood. In actual fact, this is quite possible since there are no clear assertions by AYuR officials in the press that the network of legal centers being created are Medvedev’s campaign headquarters.

If you take into account the fact that the topic of lawyers as part of the political battle is not being raised for the first time, it cannot be ruled out that the chairman of the association has himself decided to start a political battle. “This may mean that Stepashin has joined in the political battle on the side of another successor candidate,” Mukhin thinks. Taking into account the fact that Sergey Ivanov, the new first deputy prime mister, is now another identifiable candidate, the head of the AYuR is coming out on his side. Nevertheless, the expert thinks that we need to wait for new explanations from the association.

Dmitriy Shumkov is a professor at the Civil Service Academy and is considered a member of Medvedev’s entourage. Moreover, he heads a legal company, “Shumkov and Partners”, the Pravokom group of companies and the Allure Foundation. It was as head of the foundation that Shumkov acted as partner of the bid committee for the holding of the Olympics in Sochi in 2014. Reports appeared last week that the Allure Foundation had acquired 50 percent of the shares in the French company Lacroix Luxe Sport, which produces skis. The owners of the company intended to invest around 300 million dollars in Sochi, together with representatives of the Russian state structures. However, on Sunday Skis Lacroix denied the reports in the Russian media about the sale of a share holding to the Russian entrepreneur.