Open Russia Chief Andrey Pivovarov Scrutinized After Arrest At St. Petersburg Airport

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Andrey Pivovarov

On May 31, policemen in St. Petersburg entered onto a plane not long before departure and captured Andrey Pivovarov, the previous chief head of the philanthropic association Open Russia (Otkrytaya Rossiya). Reports immediately surfaced that Pivovarov had been taken to the Investigative Committee for addressing regarding a criminal case concerning crafted by an “unfortunate association.” The BBC Russian Service later revealed that Pivovarov is dealing with criminal indictments over a Facebook post he purportedly distributed in August 2020. Pivovarov’s confinement came four days after Open Russia declared its disintegration trying to shield its activists and allies from criminal arraignment in front of approaching alterations to Russia’s law on “unwanted associations.”

On the evening of May 31, Andrey Pivovarov — the previous chief head of the as of late broke down not-for-profit association Open Russia — was captured in St. Petersburg. Depicting his own capture in a Telegram post, Pivovarov said that it occurred at the Pulkovo Airport: he was set to withdraw for a get-away in Warsaw, when he was removed a LOT Polish Airlines trip without a second to spare. Cops halted the flight of the plane, which was at that point on the runway and planning for departure. “The plane was halted while maneuvering, that is, the point at which the plane was going to take off […] a gathering of cops and FSB officials went ahead load up, after which they revealed to me that I’m needed,” Pivovarov told the radio broadcast Ekho Moskvy. As indicated by the basic liberties bunch Pravozashchita Otkrytki, Pivovarov isn’t liable to any movement limitations and wasn’t addressed at identification control. The Interior Ministry’s data set does exclude any data about Pivovarov being on a needed rundown.

Background

Citing the order to initiate proceedings, the BBC Russian Service reported that the decision to open a criminal case against Pivovarov was based on a Facebook post he allegedly published while in Krasnodar on August 12, 2020. According to the Russian BBC, state investigators describe the Facebook post as “United Democrats informational material” and claim that it concerned a fundraising campaign. The investigators therefore concluded that in writing this post, Pivovarov expressed his intent to participate in the activities of the “undesirable organization” Open Russia. That said, as noted by the Russian BBC, Pivovarov’s Facebook page doesn’t include any posts dated August 12, 2020 that fit this description. However, it’s possible that the investigation was actually referring to a Facebook post by district councilman Alexander Korovainy, which Pivovarov shared on August 13, 2020. Speaking about Open Russia activist Yana Antonova’s nomination to the Krasnodar City Duma, Korovainy wrote that her campaign would require at least 200,000 rubles (about $2,725) in funding, and described how to make a donation. Antonova told the Russian BBC that “no one from the Investigative Committee or any other structures” had contacted her in connection with Pivovarov’s arrest. 

Andrey Pivovarov was detained four days after Open Russia (Otkrytaya Rossiya) announced its dissolution. On May 27, Pivovarov said that the NGO, which is linked to exiled former oil company executive Mikhail Khodorkovsky, was completely halting its operations, in order to protect its supporters from criminal prosecution. Pivovarov added that the decision to dissolve Open Russia voluntarily was linked to the amendments to the law on “undesirable organizations” that were submitted to the Russian State Duma earlier last month. That said, the Russia-based nonprofit Open Russia isn’t formally designated as “undesirable.” The pressure on its activists apparently stem from the fact that this status was handed down to two other organizations linked to Khodorkovsky, the Open Russian Civic Movement and OR (Otkrytaya Rossia). 

Mikhail Khodorkovsky compared Pivovarov’s arrest to the Belarusian authorities forcing the landing of a Ryanair passenger plane in Minsk and subsequently arresting opposition journalist Roman Protasevich and his girlfriend, Russian citizen Sofia Sapega. “Are there still doubts that Putin and Luka [Alexander Lukashenko] are two of a kind?” Khodorkovsky wrote on his Telegram channel on May 31. In turn, Tatyana Usmanova, the former coordinator of Open Russia, called the fact that Pivovarov was arrested for cooperating with an “undesirable organization” after Open Russia was dissolved “complete absurdity and lawlessness.”

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Story by Alexander Baklanov

Translated and updated by Eilish Hart