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Evidence in case against Navalny lawyer suggests Russian investigators violated attorney-client privilege

Cover photo: Alexander Fedulov, Alexei Navalny, Vadim Kobzev, and Olga Mikhailova

Confidential conversations held between jailed opposition politician Alexei Navalny and his lawyers were apparently wiretapped by investigating authorities, according to a report by Mediazona. The independent Russian outlet cited attorney Maria Zyryanova, who is defending lawyers Alexander Fedulov and Olga Mikhailova, both of whom have worked in defense of Navalny.

On February 15, Fedulov and Mikhailova were arrested in absentia by order of Moscow's Basmanny District Court.

According to Zyryanova, the purported evidence in the case against the lawyers included a disk with data on “operational and investigative measures.” The disk contained a recorded meeting between Fedulov and Navalny — a conversation which is protected by attorney-client privilege.

“As for the [operational and investigative measures], there are big questions about whether they were obtained legally. We believe that they were obtained in violation of current legislation, because in the case materials there is a transcript, a transcript of the disk allegedly received from the Federal Penitentiary Service, from the colony where Alexander Fedulov’s client is serving his sentence. It is a record of a meeting between the lawyer Alexander Fedulov and his client Alexei Navalny. Even from this transcript it is clear that they are discussing the defense of administrative cases. No phrases spoken there indicate any interaction about the extremist community. In my opinion, this is speculation on part of the investigators. But the most important thing is that such a conversation could not have come to the investigation without violating attorney-client privilege, which is protected by law.”

Mikhailova, Fedulov, and three of Navalny's other lawyers — Vadim Kobzev, Alexei Liptser, and Igor Sergunin — were accused of participating in an “extremist community” for passing the politician’s letters from prison to his associates.

Kobzev, Liptser and Sergunin were arrested in October 2023 and are currently in pre-trial detention. Mikhailova and Fedulov left Russia.

On February 14, reports confirmed that Navalny had been ordered to endure yet another 15-day stint in a SHIZO (punishment cell), his 27th since being incarcerated. When he is released, Navalny will have spent 308 total days in solitary confinement.

The politician is currently serving a 19-year sentence in IK-3 (“Polar Wolf”) — a penal colony in Kharp in the Yamalo-Nenets Region, located approximately 1,900 km (1200 miles) northeast of Moscow. Polar Wolf is considered to be one of Russia’s harshest prisons. IK-3 is a special regime colony above the Arctic Circle, located in the permafrost zone. Accessing the prison is very difficult and there are systematic reports of abuse and torture at the facility from former and current prisoners. A former inmate described the location of the prison as the “edge of all life.”

Read more about Navalny’s new penal colony in The Insider’s recent report.

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