Team 29: 👋 Katya out!

posted 30 Oct 2019, 14:15 by Translation Service   [ updated 31 Oct 2019, 09:11 by Rights in Russia ]

27 October 2019

Hi, Katya Arenina here, and this is my last newsletter at Team 29

For a little over three years now, every few weeks, I’ve sat with a completely blank page in front of me and tried my best to tell you what’s been happening in the world of Team 29 over the past week. Now I’m leaving, but the Team is staying – and it’ll be a little different, only better, I’m sure.

It’s the second day now that I’ve been thinking about what to write here. I don’t really want to go over what’s happened during the week. It’d be better to tell you about the Team and my role in it. I joined Team 29 in the summer of 2016, when Bolotka, Crimea, and the Yarovaya Package had already happened. That’s all still going on, and on top of that you’ve got the Moscow Affair and a load of other stuff. Both then and now, we’ve tried to make everything just a little bit better, and I think I can now say that we’ve had some success.

I first came across the ‘traitors’, as they’re called, in winter 2016. Whichever way I think about it, it turns out that this was what occupied me more than anything at Team 29. The sensational case of Oksana Sevastida was getting underway and, on the back of that, we discovered that as well as Sevastida, at least five others had been convicted for sending an SMS. Everything turned out alright in the end (well, relatively speaking, as ever – not counting the years lost in remand and in the camps) – they’re all free. Recently, we were thinking back to how it all developed in the podcast (I’ll miss the podcast most of all) – have a listen!

Then I decided to have a go at piecing the whole story together somehow, and this led to the special project ‘The History of High Treason, Espionage, and State Secrets in Modern Russia’. I still think it’s quite good (it had better be – it took a year and a half of agony). It perfectly demonstrates how and why the FSB fabricates spy cases.

After that came the ridiculous, but equally distressing, story of the aviation fan Roman Dmitriev from Khabarovsk region, who ended up in a prison camp for comments he’d left on a plane enthusiasts’ forum. The chances are, Dmitriev is still in a camp now, and other cases involving visitors to military history forums have followed his. We dealt with how Dmitriev’s case was built and why, patently, he couldn’t be tried for high treason. We even spoke to someone whom the FSB labelled a Mossad agent.

The Team 29 lawyers are currently defending the scientist Viktor Kudryavtsev, who also stands accused of high treason. The 75-year-old was held in the high security Russian remand centre Lefortovo for a year and by the time they let him out of there, he had cancer. Along with the Project, we looked into how things work with the isolation cell at Lefortovo, where nearly all of those accused in spy cases spend years awaiting trial.

The number of high treason cases just keeps growing at the moment, and yet we know less and less about them. Now that you’ve seen what’s going on around us, what I really want is for you to not just take things at face value and accept fake excuses about secrecy – the law in Russia on state secrets has long been in need of reform. I’ll no longer be the one telling you about this, but I’m going to miss it.

Katya, Team 29

Translated by Lindsay Munford