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‘My clients are the target’ Exiled human rights lawyer Ivan Pavlov talks to Meduza about being declared a ‘foreign agent’

Source: Meduza

Russia’s Justice Ministry added five more names to its registry of “media foreign agents” on Monday, November 8. These latest additions are all former members of Team 29, a legal association that disbanded in July 2021, but was once known for tackling Russia’s most difficult treason and espionage cases. Team 29’s founder and former head, prominent lawyer Ivan Pavlov, was designated as a “foreign agent,” along with attorney Valerya Vetoshkina (who represented Alexey Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation), lawyer Maxim Olenichev, former SMM editor Elena Skvortsova, and the former head of the group’s media department, Maxim Zagovora. Speaking to Meduza, Ivan Pavlov shares what he thinks about his new status.

Human rights lawyer Ivan Pavlov says he’s not surprised that he was designated a “foreign agent,” but he still has “mixed emotions” about his new status. “I have long seen that there are very righteous people on the list, and I ended up there in good company. On the one hand, the company suits me, but as for the status…I’ll go through the court procedures [to challenge it],” he tells Meduza.

Pavlov doesn’t seem to think a Russian court will repeal his “foreign agent” status — he says he may have to take his case to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). But going through the proceedings in Russia is perhaps the only way to find out why the Justice Ministry added him to the registry. “Since the end of 2020, I haven’t had any foreign clients. I want to find out what exactly the reason was,” he says. “In any case, I believe that life doesn’t end, but only becomes more interesting.”

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Pavlov fled Russia for Georgia in September, to escape criminal charges and pre-trial restrictions that had made his work “impossible.” He stands accused of leaking classified trial data from the treason case against one of his clients, former journalist Ivan Safronov. In October, Pavlov said the Russian authorities had put his name on a wanted list

As a “foreign agent,” Pavlov is now required to report all of his earnings and spending to the Russian authorities, and to add a special warning about his status to all of his public statements, including posts and comments on social media. But he says he’s already decided not to use this disclaimer, on principle. “I don’t recognize the decision to designate me as a ‘foreign agent’ as legitimate and I will challenge it,” he underscores.

Pavlov believes his clients won’t be deterred by his new status. Indeed, he thinks they understand that the Russian authorities are persecuting him to get to them. “They beat me, but my clients are the target,” he explains. 

At the same time, this does have an impact on his colleagues in the profession who are still working in Russia. “Of course, all the negative actions with lawyers — especially with well-known lawyers — have a ‘chilling’ effect,” Pavlov tells Meduza. “I wish all my colleagues resilience: don’t be afraid to defend your clients by all means not prohibited by law.” 

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Interview by Alexandra Sivtsova 

Summary by Eilish Hart

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