‘We found a wiretap’ Lyubov Sobol’s campaign team head released from custody with bugged cell phone
In her latest video for “Navalny Live” opposition figure Lyubov Sobol revealed that her campaign manager, Olga Klyuchnikova, found a listening device planted inside her cell phone following her release from jail at the end of December 2020. According to Klyuchnikova, her iPhone was “noticeably malfunctioning” when she was allowed to use it while still in custody, leading her to believe that FSB officers had “clumsily” tampered with the device. She now plans to appeal to state investigators to open a criminal case for violation of privacy.
After a week-long stint in jail on administrative charges, Olga Klyuchnikova — the head of opposition figure Lyubov Sobol’s campaign team for the 2021 State Duma elections — found a listening device planted inside her iPhone. This was reported by Lyubov Sobol in a video released on the YouTube channel Navalny Live.
Klyuchnikova was arrested on December 21, 2020, near the home of alleged FSB officer Konstantin Kudryavtsev — who was implicated in the August 2020 poisoning of Russian opposition figure Alexey Navalny. Akim Kerimov, a camera operator for Navalny Live, was arrested at the same time. Both Klyuchnikova and Kerimov were sentenced to seven days administrative arrest on charges of disobeying police officers.
Following their release from a special detention center in Moscow, Kerimov was unable to get his cell phone back. Klyuchnikova’s phone, on the other hand, was returned to her, Sobol explains in the video. “It was strange. And so we took a closer look at the phone and there we found a wiretap,” she says.
Olga Klyuchnikova told MBX Media that she found the “bug” while still in custody, when her phone was given to her for 15 minutes so she could speak to her family. “The bolts were twisted on it (the phone hadn’t been opened before), and the device was noticeably malfunctioning: the apps opened and closed on their own,” she recalled. Klyuchnikova assumed that FSB officers had “clumsily” tampered with her phone.
Navalny Live technical director Daniel Kholodny said there were visible signs that the phone had been opened: there was factory glue around the edges of the screen, and the screws were unscrewed. In the Navalny Live video, he showed a device that was “clearly not from Apple,” which included a built-in SIM card, microphone, GPS tracker, and microcircuit to amplify the radio signal. Kholodny speculated that they wanted to use this “bug” to mirror what was happening on the smartphone’s screen.
When the iPhone was opened, the officers broke the ear speaker flex cable and the Face ID, so such tampering was impossible not to notice. The iPhone’s batteries were soldered in the most backward way, apparently in order to power the “bug” itself. To be honest, I’m not sure this iPhone is safe to use at all.
Olga Klyuchnikova plans to submit a complaint to the Russian Investigative Committee, demanding the launch of a criminal case for privacy violation and breach of the confidentiality of correspondence and telephone communications.
At the same time, Lyubov Sobol is currently under investigation on criminal charges of infringing on the inviolability of the home of Konstantin Kudryavtsev. State investigators maintain that Sobol entered the purported federal agent’s apartment building by tricking a delivery man into thinking that she was an “abandoned wife with a small child”; allegedly, she then proceeded to illegally enter the apartment of “an elderly woman.”
According to Alexey Navalny, the woman investigators are referring to is Kudryavtsev’s mother-in-law and neighbor, Galina Subbotina. Sobol asserts that after she arrived at Kudryavtsev’s home and he refused to open the door, she managed to get into the apartment building along with a pizza delivery man. In addition, Navalny maintains that Subbotina came out of her apartment to speak to Sobol of her own accord.
Translation by Eilish Hart