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The Kremlin’s Political Prisoners: The Case of Gennady Kravtsov

Apr 24 2020

Gennady Kravtsov is a radio engineer who was sentenced to six years in prison in a maximum-security colony on charges of committing a crime under Article 275 of the Russian Criminal Code (‘High Treason’). He has been in custody since May 27, 2014. Memorial Human Rights Center has recognized Gennady Kravtsov as a political prisoner because the actions he was accused of never took place and his right to a fair trial was violated.

According to an investigation, supported during the hearing by a state prosecutor Viktor Antipov, Kravtsov in his resume “divulged data of the personnel of intelligence agencies” as well as “a military purpose of the Tselina-2 spacecraft”. On September 21, 2015, a judge of the Moscow City Court Nikolay Tkachuk found Gennady Kravtsov guilty under Article 275 of the Russian Criminal Code (‘High Treason’), and sentenced him to 14 years in a strict regime prison. On February 4, 2016, the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation reduced the sentence from 14 to 6 years of imprisonment in a strict regime prison.

The analysis of the circumstances and chronology of the case allows us to conclude a the political motivation of the case against Kravtsov. It was opened three years after the engineer sent his resume to a Swedish company. That happened during the period of an aggressive state policy aimed at searching for internal enemies, “spies” and “traitors to the Motherland”. For the duration of the investigation and the trial, the defense and the defendant himself were not allowed to review a number of regulations which Kravtsov was accused of violating. Kravtsov’s former colleagues were on the commission that conducted a key analysis in the case, which could have influenced the objectivity of its results. The investigation and the trial in this criminal case were accompanied by other procedural violations too – the first search in the engineer’s home was conducted without a court order, and during the closed proceedings an FSB officer tried to restrict Kravtsov from talking to his lawyer. Furthermore, the investigation and state prosecutors did not prove the fact that Kravtsov caused harm to the country’s security.

According to experts in the military-space field, the technical characteristics of a piece of the space equipment that Kravtsov supposedly revealed were declassified by the construction bureau back in the early 2000s and published in the construction bureau’s catalogs. The equipment itself is no longer used by Russia.

The case against Gennady Kravtsov is a consequence of deliberate state policy and propaganda which has created the atmosphere of wartime in society and which is accompanied by searches for “the fifth column” and “enemies of the state”. To maintain this atmosphere, new criminal cases against “spies” and “traitors to the Motherland” are required, which resulted in fabrication of criminal cases by law enforcement and security services that criminalize completely legal actions of citizens. Besides Kravtsov, victims of this policy have been a cashier at the Sochi farmer’s market Yekaterina Kharebava (sentenced to six years in prison in November 2014 for espionage) and mother of seven children from Smolensk Svetlana Davydova (was accused state treason and spent two weeks in a detention center). Davydova’s lawyer Andrey Stebenev was appointed as Kravtsov’s state defender. Later, Andrey Stebenev was revoked of his lawyer status for violating a code of professional ethics. Actions of this lawyer were aimed at persuading the accused to plead guilty.

Taking into account all the circumstances, Memorial Human Rights Center has recognized Gennady Kravtsov as a political prisoner. As a result of his criminal prosecution, the right of the defendant to a fair legal investigation was violated. The term of Kravtsov’s imprisonment is clearly inappropriate for the factual circumstances of the criminal case.

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