Search Underway at the Apartment of Open Russia’s Zoya Svetova

February 28, 2017

This morning a group of 10 investigators arrived at Zoya Svetova’s apartment to carry out a search in connection with the Yukos case. According to Svetova, who is a prominent journalist and human right activist currently working at Open Russia, there is no logic in the actions of the FSB, and the only goal of the search seems to be intimidation.

The search was authorised by Moscow’s Basmanny district court on the 18th of January 2017. The official reason for the search was that Svetova’s apartment may contain documents connected with Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the founder of Open Russia and former head of the Yukos oil company.

Zoya Svetovaya, 57, came from a family of Soviet dissidents. In 1982, her mother, the Orthodox writer Zoya Krakhmalnikova was arrested. In 1985, three years after the first search, Zoya’s father, writer and dissident Felix Svetov, was also arrested. Svetova, whose three sons (Philip, Timofey, and Tikhon Dzyadko) are also prominent Russian journalists, has been contributing to various media outlets, including Russia’s New Times, Novaya Gazeta, Ezhenedelny Zhournal, as well as French Liberation, Radio France, and France 2. At Open Russia Svetova works with political prisoners and covered human rights issues.

Open Russia activists believe that the only real goal of the current investigation is to intimidate people connected with the opposition movement. Earlier, a search in connection with the Yukos case was also conducted in Open Russia’s Moscow office in the spring of 2015. It is noteworthy that Open Russia Coordinator Vladimir Kara-Murza has recently suffered from another poisoning by an “unknown” substance (this is his second poisoning since 2015).

After the search had finally come to a close, Zoya Svetova made the following statement: “It’s insane, that at the very same time that the Investment Forum is going on, where the ombudsman is calling for unjust laws to be revoked, that the police turn up to the house of a journalist to conduct a search. I am a member of Open Russia, I pay my taxes, I do not understand why I am being searched at 11 o’clock in the morning. [The police] asked where I was doing repairs. I spoke about it on the telephone. This means that they had been monitoring my phone calls, and I do not understand why. I assume it’s connected with the research I’m conducting with Open Russia. The government doesn’t like it and they want to intimidate me. I’m still trying to find the logic in this, but they rightly say that no such logic is to be found in the actions of the FSB.”

The Yukos case is an array of high-profile politically motivated cases against the Yukos company and its affiliates that had a significant influence on Russia’s political and judicial system. The first case against Yukos was opened in June 2003. Over 50 people have been persecuted in connection with the case, and 15 people have been either sentenced or brought in to custody, including the Mikhail Khodorkovsky, Platon Lebedev, Aleksei Pichugin, Svetlana Bakhmina, Vasily Aleksanyan (who died in prison in 2011), and others.

More information on the Yukos case is available here.

Here is how this story developed on social media.

A force of 12 investigators are currently conducting a search of her property. The group is being led by investigator Nigmatullin.

Svetova’s son Timofey Dzyadko wrote on his Facebook page: “While I’m here at the Investment Forum in Sochi, my parents are at home in Moscow being searched in connection with the Yukos case and Open Russia. The search began at around 11 in the morning. Your investments can burn in hell, Dmitri Anatoleyvich [Medvedev]!

P.S. For my colleagues. Do not call my mother at the moment and do not ask me for her number.  In case you didn’t know, I’ll tell you: during a search investigators do not allow you to use your phone….”

Lawyer Sergey Badamshin commented on Twitter: “FSB agents have taken a particular interest in the protocols of the search conducted on Zoya Svetova’s parents in the 80s.”

Update: 12:40 pm (MSK) The police are forbidding anyone from using their mobile phones and are trying to confiscate the TV Rain correspondent’s phone from him. Fearing an escape, the operatives intercepted Mrs. Svetova’s daughter while she was walking her dog

Update: 15:00 (MSK) Lawyer Anna Stavitskaya has revealed that the search of Zoya Svetova’s house was sanctioned by Elena Lensky of the Basmanny District Court in Moscow.

Update 16:00 (MSK) Around 15 journalists and human rights activists have gathered around Zoya Svetova’s apartment. They are not being allowed inside. Besides the 10 investigators, there are also four lawyers inside Mrs. Svetova’s apartment.

Update 17:00 (MSK) According to Stavitskaya, the search is coming to an end. The police are creating an inventory. The people gathered in the hallway managed to get food up to the apartment.

Update 17:25 (MSK) Zoya Svetova took a look outside of her apartment and thanked those who had gathered around for their support. Within a few seconds the operatives forced her back inside and closed the door.

Photo: Polina Nemirovskaya

Update: 20:10 (MSK) A number of police vans arrived at Kolobovsky Street where Zoya Svetova’s apartment is situated.

Photo: Open Russia