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Noted Russian Lawyer, Associates Labeled 'Foreign Agents'


Ivan Pavlov poses for a picture during an interview in Tbilisi on September 9.

MOSCOW -- One of Russia's top human rights lawyers has been added to a Russian registry of "foreign agents" along with four associates.

Ivan Pavlov, who has defended jailed opposition politician Aleksei Navalny, his organizations, and journalist Ivan Safronov, was added to the list by the Justice Ministry on November 8.

Maksim Zagovora, Valery Vetoshkin, Yelena Skvortsova, and Maksim Olenichev -- former members of Pavlov's team known as Komanda 29 -- were also added to the list.

The Russian government uses the designation to label what it says are foreign-funded organizations that are engaged in political activity, as well as people linked to them.

The "foreign agents" laws require those designated to register with the authorities and label their content with an intrusive disclaimer, with criminal fines for not doing so.

The label has led to several NGOs, media organizations, and other groups to shut down as they lose revenue from spooked advertisers.

The designation also restricts other media from citing a "foreign agent" organization without including a disclaimer.

Among the more recent additions is the Russian LGBT Network, Russia's largest gay and lesbian support group, which was added to the list on October 19.

Pavlov wrote on Telegram that the ministry's move proves that his team's work is important to promote "freedom of speech and information."

"My work has always been based on law, openness, and irony. By labeling us as foreign agents [the authorities] are trying to protect themselves from the openness and irony, of which they seem to be scared most of all," Pavlov's Telegram statement said.

In April, Pavlov became a suspect in a criminal case on the disclosure of data with regard to the cases of his client, Ivan Safronov. Pavlov called the case politically motivated.

In September, Pavlov fled Russia and is currently residing in Georgia.

Safronov, a former journalist and adviser to the head of Russian space agency Roskosmos, was arrested and charged with high treason in July 2020 on allegations that he had passed secret information to the Czech Republic in 2017 about Russian arms sales in the Middle East.

Safronov has rejected the accusations against him and many of his supporters have held pickets demanding his release, saying that all case materials have been deemed classified as part of the cover-up.

Russian authorities have launched a massive crackdown on dissent in recent months, jailing dozens of opposition members, activists, and regular citizens under the guise of charges widely considered to be falsified.

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