Entity leader Ivan Pavlov was a lawyer for Alexey Navalny, an opponent of President Valdimir Putin and currently imprisoned in Russia
The NGO Komanda 29 (Team 29, in literal translation), formed by lawyers and journalists who defend human rights, decided to cease its activities due to strong pressure exerted by Moscow. The group was considered a threat for investigating cases associated with the FSB (Federal Security Agency), according to Radio Free Europe (RFE).
The Russian Prosecutor's Office based its accusation on an alleged association of Komanda 29 with the Czech Republic's NGO Společnost Svobody Informace (Society for Freedom of Information, literally translated), which was listed by Moscow as an "undesirable organization". Thus, any entity associated with it falls into lawlessness in Russia.
Although it denies any relationship with the Czech NGO, Komanda 29 claims that it is unable to fight a battle with the Russian Justice to confirm its allegation, as it would put the team at risk. The group's website has already been taken down by Russian authorities.
“The next step in the attack against us could be the criminal prosecution of the members of Komanda 29 and their supporters,” says a statement in Russian posted on the social network Telegram. “The ongoing work of Komanda 29 creates a clear and direct threat to the safety of a large number of people. We cannot ignore this risk”.
Espionage and betrayal
The persecution of Komanda 29 intensified in April, when Pavlov was arrested on charges of divulging state secrets. According to Yevgeny Olenichev, a lawyer for the NGO, pressure Moscow has only increased in recent months, and today it has become "very dangerous to continue working as before."
When Pavlov was arrested, lawyer Irina Biryukova said that "he has been a bone stuck in the throat of security agencies."
Olenichev reinforced this idea by revealing that the group had been investigating about 25 cases, several of them involving treason and espionage at the highest levels of government. The NGO also tried to access FSB files with information on the political repression and other crimes of the Soviet Union government during the 1930s and 1940s.
“In many areas we have had good results, and they have caught the attention of the authorities,” said Olenichev, who highlights the NGO's intention to “clean up the public sector” in preparation for September's parliamentary elections.
The association's leader, Ivan Pavlov, with Alexey Navalny, an opponent of President Valdimir Putin and currently imprisoned in Russia, also weighed against Komanda 29, according to Reuters. Pavlov was a lawyer for Navalny and acted in defense of others linked to him and also persecuted by the Putin government.