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Russian journalist Antonina Favorskaya faces extremism charges for alleged links to Navalny, placed in pre-trial detention for two months

Moscow’s Basmanny District Court has ordered SotaVision journalist Antonina Favorskaya to remain in a pre-trial detention center for two months, according to a report by The Insider’s correspondent who was present in the courtroom. The session was held behind closed doors, with state investigators officially justifying the secrecy based on the defendant’s alleged links to “an extremist community, some of whose participants are wanted.”

Before the announcement of the measure of restraint, Favorskaya managed to say that law enforcement officers had seized four rubber ducks during a search of her home, a fact that testifies to the absurdity of the whole process. In 2017, opposition leader and anti-corruption activist Alexei Navalny accused then-Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev of collecting luxury properties, with one reportedly having a standalone duck house. After that, rubber ducks became protest symbols among Navalny’s supporters — and opponents of President Vladimir Putin's government.

The journalist also said that she was being tried for an article she wrote describing the conditions in the prison where Alexei Navalny was serving his sentence. Navalny was murdered in a prison near the town of Kharp in Russia’s Far North on February 16.

Favorskaya was detained on March 17 after she laid flowers at Alexei Navalny’s grave at a cemetery in Moscow, with police saying they received an anonymous call about the alleged offense. Favorskaya was initially sentenced to 10 days behind bars for disobeying the police. Despite serving her time on that charge, she detained again immediately after her release.

Journalists Alexandra Astakhova and Anastasia Musatova, who were waiting to greet Favorskaya on March 27 following the scheduled end of her stint in jail, were detained along with her. Reports later confirmed that Favorskaya was accused of “participation in an extremist community” for her alleged involvement in Alexei Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation (ACF).

A press release from the Moscow court system said Favorskaya is accused of “collecting material, making and editing videos and publications for the [Anti-Corruption Foundation].”

Astakhova and Musatova’s apartments were also searched, but both journalists were later released after signing gag orders forbidding them to disclose anything relating to the investigation. No other restrictions were imposed. Both journalists are currently listed as witnesses in Favorskaya’s case.

Favorskaya is being represented by the attorneys Alan Kachmazov and Fyodor Sirosh, who defended her in the “police disobedience” case that saw her sentenced to 10 days in jail. The court session was also attended by Alexander Pelevin, a government informant who was earlier identified by journalists from the publication We Can Explain (Mozhem Obyasnit’). According to the We Can Explain report, Pelevin had a special interest in Favorskaya’s employer, SotaVision.

Alexandra Astakhova said that she considers the case against her friend fabricated. “Tonya [Antonina] was a very careful person and did not break the law,” she said. Alexei Navalny's spokeswoman Kira Yarmysh denied the Investigative Committee's accusations, tweeting:

“Favorskaya did not publish anything in the [Anti-Corruption Foundation], but even if we set aside the falsity of the accusation, its essence remains — the journalist is [being] accused of journalistic activity.”

Ivan Zhdanov, a close associate of Navalny, wrote:

“Antonina Favorskaya, a journalist who was involved in covering all the events related to the funeral of Alexei Navalny, has been arrested for two months.
She will be behind bars until she is sentenced, where she’ll get up to 6 years in prison.
The photos in the media from the cemetery, a large number of photos from Navalny's courtroom hearings, and extensive reporting from Kharp are all Antonina's work.
Her arrest was a response to her journalistic work, particularly for publishing these stories, and is a clear act of injustice.”

Supporters of convicted Khabarovsk governor Sergei Furgal also came to the support of the journalist, as Favorskaya had extensively covered the former official’s trial — also widely seen as politically motivated. Furgal was arrested in 2020, sparking mass protests in the far-eastern city of Khabarovsk, and was eventually sentenced to 22 in prison following a guilty verdict for double murder in a jury trial. The activists said that the Khabarovsk Region supports Favorskaya and demands her release.

Favorskaya wrote extensively about Russia, reporting on the trial of Zarema Musayeva, along with the assault of Elena Milashina and Musayeva’s attorney Alexander Nemov. She covered the trial of Liliya Chanysheva, coordinator of Navalny's headquarters in Ufa, and reported on Alexei Navalny when he was in prison.

On February 15, Favorskaya notably recorded the last video of Navalny at a court hearing he “attended” via video link from the IK-3 prison in Kharp.

Favorskaya joined SotaVision one and a half years ago. After Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022, she started attending political trials and eventually met the publication's journalists. Favorskaya's coworker in the courthouse corridor recalled:

“[We met] at the trial of [opposition politican] Ilya Yashin. Tonya came [to the trial] as an observer, she was working as an actress at the time. I remember that right after meeting her, she shared that no one in the acting community shared her position on Putin's politics and suggested that like-minded people should stick together. Afterward, she came to work at [SotaVision].
SotaVision correspondents are among the few remaining in Russia who work openly and don’t hide their names. The authorities can be annoyed by this, so my colleagues may come to the attention of the security services more often than others. Public outcry still matters. People unite around political prisoners, monitor their situation and health, keep in touch with them and write them letters. Journalists bring these stories to the public. This cohesion and widespread support for each other can also irritate the authorities. They decided to start persecuting journalists who cover these stories.”

On March 27, RusNews journalist Olga Komleva was detained in Ufa, the capital of Russia’s Bashkortostan region. Komleva has also been accused of cooperating with the Anti-Corruption Foundation, but her case is unrelated to that of Favorskaya.

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