Category Archives: lawyers

Now, they go After Magnitsky’s Momma


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:

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading


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.

Continue reading

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.