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Russian Woman Accused Of Treason Over Suspected Troop Deployment

Svetlana Davydova in a family photo with husband Anatoly Gorlov and their seven children
Svetlana Davydova in a family photo with husband Anatoly Gorlov and their seven children

A Russian woman has been jailed on suspicion of treason after she called the Ukrainian Embassy with information about possible Russian troop movements.

A spokesman for Moscow's Lefortovo Court said on January 29 that it ordered Svetlana Davydova held for one month and 25 days.

The 36-year-old mother of seven was detained last week in the town of Vyazma, some 240 kilometers west of the capital.

Davydova’s state-appointed defense lawyer, Andrei Stebenev, said she "called where she was not supposed to call and said what she was not supposed to say."

Stebenev confirmed to RFE/RL’s Russian Service that Davydova stands accused of treason for allegedly disclosing state secrets. The crime is punishable by up to 20 years in prison.

Davydova’s husband, Anatoly Gorlov, said his wife phoned the Ukrainian Embassy in Moscow in April and said that a military base near their home had emptied out, suggesting the soldiers may have been deployed to Ukraine.

Russia denies involvement in the conflict, which has killed more than 5,100 people in eastern Ukraine since April, despite what Kyiv and NATO say is incontrovertible evidence Moscow has sent troops and weapons to help separatists fighting government forces.

Gorlov told RFE/RL’s Russian Service on January 29 that Davydova was being held in Moscow’s Lefortovo jail and that he may be able to visit her next week.

He portrayed his wife as a passionate opponent of the war in eastern Ukraine, where the United Nations says more than 5,100 people have died since the armed conflict erupted in April.

Davydova has been on maternity leave and spending most of her time in their apartment with the couple’s two-month-old baby girl, Gorlov said.

He said that while the apartment does have a view of a military base, it would have been impossible for her to determine whether the troops there were being deployed to Ukraine.

“I presume it was simply an emotional phone call to the Ukrainian Embassy,” he said. “She saw the emptied-out base, made some assumption, and expressed her wish that no one else would die.”

The Federal Security Service (FSB) agents who raided the family’s apartment on the morning of January 21 confiscated documents, computers, and other electronic devices, Gorlov said.

He said Davydova was detained without explanation that day. Five days later he received a written explanation that his wife was accused of treason, Gorlov said.

He said investigators seized a diary in which Davydova recorded details of a telephone conversation she overheard while riding with other passengers in a taxi van in April.

The diary entry, according to investigators, said Russian soldiers were planning to arrive in Moscow in civilian clothing and receive weapons there, Gorlov said, citing a report by investigators on the raid of the family’s apartment.

Davydova wrote in the diary entry that “perhaps this information will help you save the lives of Ukrainians and the unity of the country,” Gorlov cited the investigators' report as saying.

With reporting by Interfax, AFP, and Kommersant