MOSCOW -- Ivan Pavlov, one of Russia’s top human rights lawyers who is representing jailed Kremlin-critic Aleksei Navalny's Anti-Corruption Foundation (FBK), has been detained for allegedly disclosing classified information relating to an ongoing investigation.
The 50-year-old Pavlov told reporters that he was briefly detained early on April 30 by Federal Security Service (FSB) agents while his hotel room in Moscow was searched.
"I was interrogated as a suspect," he said before he was brought back in for further questioning with Russia's Investigative Committee.
According to the press service from a Moscow court, the authorities are seeking to bar Pavlov from using the Internet and communicating with witnesses in his criminal case.
Amnesty International called on Russian authorities to "immediately and unconditionally" release Pavlov.
"Lawyers are the last line of defense against the government's growing crackdown on human rights, and now the authorities are going after one of the country's most courageous lawyers. They accused him of disclosing information about cases they are arbitrarily treating as a state secret. This is a travesty of justice," said Natalia Zviagina, Amnesty International’s Moscow office director.
Pavlov has made a name for himself in Russia for taking on often politically sensitive cases ranging from treason to espionage.
The investigation comes amid mounting pressure from officials on Navalny and his organizations, which have produced a series of high-profile and sometimes embarrassing investigations into official corruption, especially in cases surrounding President Vladimir Putin.
The Team 29 lawyers' group that Pavlov leads said on Telegram that officers also searched the St. Petersburg home of the group's IT-specialist, Igor Dorfman, the group's offices, and Pavlov's wife's apartment.
While officials have yet to comment on Pavlov’s detention, he said he has been accused of disclosing classified information relating to an ongoing investigation against one of his clients, former journalist Ivan Safronov. He disclosed information in a media interview. The offence is punishable by up to three months in jail.
Safronov, who was charged with treason, and his supporters have rejected the allegations saying they are politically motivated.
Because of the detention, Pavlov was unable to attend a court hearing in Moscow on April 30 where a judge prolonged Safronov's pretrial detention until at least July 7, the one-year anniversary of his arrest.
The 30-year-old Safronov, who has worked since May 2020 as an adviser to Dmitry Rogozin, the head of Russia's space agency Roskosmos, was previously a prominent journalist who covered the military-industrial complex for the newspapers Kommersant and Vedomosti.
He was arrested on July 7 2020 amid allegations that he had passed secret information to the Czech Republic in 2017 about Russian arms sales in the Middle East.
Safronov has repeatedly denied the accusations. Many of his supporters have held pickets in Moscow and other cities demanding his release.
On April 29, Pavlov represented Navalny's FBK at a Moscow court hearing over a prosecutor's request to label the group an extremist organization.
On April 30, Russia's financial regulator, Rosfinmonitoring, added the network of Navalny's regional campaign offices to the register of organizations involved in "terrorism and extremism."
The previous day, Leonid Volkov, the head of the network, said that a crackdown on the group had made it "impossible" to continue operating and announced the closure of the network's operation.
Pavlov also defended physicist Viktor Kudryavtsev, who was charged with high treason. Kudryavtsev died of cancer on April 29 at the age of 78 as his trial was pending.
A day before his detainment, Pavlov accused the FSB of causing Kudryavtsev's death, saying that the 14 months spent by Kudryavtsev in pretrial detention "completely damaged his health." He added that Kudryavtsev's case is "an example of how secret services are literally killing Russian science in general."