Svetlana Davydova is accused of telling Ukrainian embassy that Russian special forces were being deployed in Ukraine
Svetlana Davydova faces up to 20 years in prison on accusations that she called the Ukrainian embassy in Moscow in April to warn that Russian special forces were being deployed to eastern Ukraine.
She was detained at her home in the Smokensk region on 21 January and placed in pre-trial detention for two months in Moscow’s high-security Lefortovo prison.
On Tuesday evening, investigators unexpectedly said they would release Davydova on condition that she remained in her home city of Vyazma, her lawyers told the media.
The Kremlin has denied sending troops to aid pro-Russian rebels in Ukraine despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.
As of Tuesday afternoon, more than 29,000 people had signed a petition posted on Saturday to the website of the independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta, and more than 28,000 had signed the same letter on Change.org. A copy of the letter was submitted to the presidential administration .
The petition argues that Davydova should be placed under house arrest because she does not pose a safety or flight risk and does not have a passport to travel abroad. It also points out that she is the mother of seven children, including a two-month-old, whom she is still breast-feeding.
“Not long ago you performed a humanitarian act for a longtime opponent,” the letter reads, referring to Putin’s decision to pardon oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky after 10 years in prison on the grounds that his mother’s health was worsening. “Today seven young children are waiting at home for a woman who is in Lefortovo prison, in a difficult situation.”
Among the letter’s many prominent signees were the widow of the dissident novelist Alexander Solzhenitsyn, Nataliya, the well-known journalist Vladimir Pozner, the two-time Olympic gold-medalist figure skater Katerina Gordeyeva, and Andrei Zvyagintsev, director of the controversial Academy Award-nominated film Leviathan.
Davydova’s husband, Anatoly Gorlov, told Kommersant newspaper that his wife noticed in April that a base of the military’s foreign intelligence branch near their home in the town of Vyazma seemed unusually empty. Later, in a minibus, she overheard a man from the base talking over the phone about small groups of servicemen in plain clothes going on “business trips”, a euphemism soldiers’ rights advocates say the Russian military often uses when sending troops to eastern Ukraine. Davydova called the Ukrainian embassy to say “she had this information and wanted to avoid possible casualties”, Gorlov said.
In a letter to the prosecutor general and the FSB security service, independent MP Dmitry Gudkov argued that Davydova had been detained “on the basis of personal fantasies and a subjective interpretation of reality”, citing a letter from the defence ministry asserting that Russia was not participating in the conflict in eastern Ukraine.
“If this is treason, then that confirms the participation of Russian troops in Ukraine. If it doesn’t confirm that, then it’s not treason,” Gudkov told Gazeta.ru.
Andrei Stebenev, the state lawyer initially appointed to defend Davydova, who has since been dismissed by her, said on the radio station Govorit Moskva that military investigators had found that Davydova passed along information that could threaten “operations to strengthen the border with Ukraine”. Ukraine’s foreign ministry has said it does not know of such a call from Davydova.
The presidential children’s ombudsman, Pavel Astakhov, human rights council head, Mikhail Fedotov, and human rights ombudswoman, Ella Pamfilova, have all filed complaints asking for Davydova to be released from pre-trial detention, with Astakhov calling the separation of a mother from her children the “most cruel punishment”.