Retroactive repression Five former team Navalny activists arrested in cities across Russia
Russian police reportedly detained as many as five former activists from Alexey Navalny’s disbanded political network on Tuesday, December 28. According to various reports, arrests were carried out in the cities of Tomsk, Irkutsk, Arkhangelsk, Barnaul, and Saratov (though not all of the detentions have been confirmed). Following interrogations, investigators brought criminal charges against two of the detained activists — former regional coordinators Ksenia Fadeeva and Zakhar Sarapulov — for involvement in an extremist group and participation in a nonprofit organization that infringes on the rights of citizens. Both Fadeeva and Sarapulov were arraigned on Tuesday and placed under restrictions pending trial.
On Tuesday, police in five Russian cities arrested former coordinators and employees of Alexey Navalny’s regional campaign offices. The following people were reportedly detained for questioning:
- Ksenia Fadeeva, a Tomsk city council member who formerly led Navalny’s headquarters in the region;
- Zakhar Sarapulov, the former coordinator of Navalny’s Irkutsk campaign office;
- Egor Butakov, the former coordinator of Navalny’s Arkhangelsk campaign office;
- Vadim Ostanin, the former head of Navalny’s Barnaul campaign office (reports of his arrest are still being confirmed);
- Andrey Gorodetsky, the former social media editor for Navalny’s Saratov campaign office.
Earlier in the day, law enforcement officers carried out searches at the homes of the detainees and their relatives. Authorities in Biysk, a city in Russia’s Altai Krai, searched the home of Vadim Ostanin’s mother, who told rights monitor Ovd-Info that she couldn’t reach her son by phone.
Tomsk City Duma deputy Ksenia Fadeeva has been charged with using her official position to organize an “extremist group,” a source told TV2. This is a felony punishable by between seven and twelve years in prison. In addition, Fadeeva has been charged with involvement in a nonprofit organization that infringes upon the liberties and rights of individuals — another felony, punishable by up to two years in prison.
Fadeeva’s arraignment took place at the Kirovsky District Court in Tomsk later in the day on Tuesday, reported Team Navalny CEO Ivan Zhdanov. The court placed Fadeeva under pre-trial restrictions, banning her from using the Internet, attending public events, and communicating with anyone besides close relatives (unless permitted to do so by investigators). Also, according to Taiga.Info, investigators had both Fadeeva and her lawyer sign non-disclosure agreements.
Zakhar Sarapulov from Irkutsk is facing similar charges and was also placed under pre-trial restrictions. As reported by Sarapulov’s project, Irkutsk Insider, the former Team Navalny coordinator was charged with organizing an extremist group and creating a nonprofit organization that infringes upon the liberties and rights of individuals. Like Fadeeva, Sarapulov was banned from using the Internet, attending public events, and communicating with anyone besides his relatives, defense lawyers, and the investigators handling his case. Sarapulov’s lawyers were also made to sign non-disclosure agreements, according to RFE/RL’s project Sibir.Realii.
According to RFE/RL, Andrey Gorodetsky from Saratov was also detained on suspicion of involvement in an extremist group. Navalny’s chief of staff Leonid Volkov told Mediazona that Egor Butakov from Arkhangelsk was detained and interrogated for alleged involvement in a nonprofit organization that infringes upon the liberties and rights of individuals. According to Volkov, it remains unclear whether Butakov is a suspect or a witness in the criminal case.
Russia’s Investigative Committee launched a criminal case on charges of creating an extremist group against jailed Kremlin critic Alexey Navalny and his closest associates back in September. In November, investigators made their first arrest in the case, jailing the former head of Navalny’s Ufa campaign office, Liliya Chanysheva. She was subsequently transferred to a pre-trial detention center in Moscow, as the Investigative Committee’s central office is handling the case. In December, one of Chanysheva’s lawyers — defense attorney Vladimir Voronin — was removed from the proceedings.
A Moscow court outlawed Navalny’s national network of campaign offices as an “extremist organization” in June. On Tuesday, Navalny’s chief of staff Leonid Volkov described the latest arrests a “new round of repression for ‘extremism,’ presented retroactively for the absolutely legal activities of Navalny’s headquarters from 2017–2021.” Volkov also said that after Liliya Chanysheva was jailed, Navalny’s team tried to persuade all other former campaign office coordinators still living in Russia to leave the country, offering “any help with [their] departure,” including financial aid. According to Volkov, Zakhar Sarapulov and Ksenia Fadeeva “flatly refused” to leave Russia (he didn’t mention the other coordinators). “Now we’re trying to coordinate legal assistance and get in touch with [these] guys,” Volkov added.
Translation by Eilish Hart