Navalny lawyer says he has fled Russia amid crackdown

(FILES) In this file photo taken on June 09, 2021 lawyer Ivan Pavlov speaks with media near the Moscow City Court, which is considering whether to brand jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny’s prominent anti-corruption organisation extremist, a ruling that would ban its activities and could see staff jailed. – One of Russia’s top rights lawyers who represented jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny’s group said on September 7, 2021 he had left the country, citing pressure from authorities. (Photo by Dimitar DILKOFF / AFP)

A prominent Russian human rights lawyer, who represented organisations founded by jailed opposition figure Alexei Navalny, said Tuesday he had fled the country under pressure from the authorities.

Ivan Pavlov, 50, is the latest high-profile, opposition-linked figure to leave Russia, as a crackdown on dissenting voices intensifies ahead of parliamentary elections later this month.

The lawyer, who was known in particular for taking on treason cases, wrote on Telegram that he had left for neighbouring Georgia.

“I’m now an emigrant. For now, in Georgia,” he said.

Pavlov this year defended Navalny’s network of regional offices and his Anti-Corruption Foundation after prosecutors called for them to be banned as extremist.

He also handled the case of former journalist Ivan Safronov, who was arrested in July, 2020 on treason charges and is accused of passing state secretes to Czech intelligence.

In April, authorities opened a criminal probe against Pavlov and banned him from using a phone and the internet for allegedly disclosing classified information related to the Safronov trial.

“The bans imposed against me in connection with the criminal case have made my work impossible,” Pavlov wrote.

But, he said, “the bans did not apply to one thing — leaving the country. It was a sign pointing to the exit.”

He claimed to have been followed prior to his departure, including in the airport. But he said he was not stopped from leaving the country.

He said that he had arranged for his clients to be represented by other “reliable lawyers” in his absence and added that he planned to return to Russia one day.

Parliamentary elections are scheduled to take place on September 17-19, with nearly all vocal Kremlin critics — including Navalny’s allies — barred from running.

In recent years authorities have ramped up efforts to silence dissent, and a wide range of individuals including scientists have been accused of treason or disclosing state secrets.

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