Last week was announced that the well-known Russian lawyer, political activist, and blogger Alexei Navalny joined the team of attorneys working on the YUKOS case. Navalny will be defending Pavel Ivlev, a former YUKOS lawyer and the IMR Executive Director. RUNYweb published an interview with Ivlev about Navalny's hire, and IMR is exclusively offering an English translation of that interview.
RUNYweb: What criteria did you use when selecting Alexei Navalny to be a consultant for your case? If the main criteria were his professional abilities, how did Navalny prove himself skilled in matters of corporate law? And if your decision to hire him was based on his social and political popularity, then where does that leave you?
Pavel Ivlev: I asked Alexei to join the team of attorneys defending me against charges of the theft of all YUKOS’ oil produced from 2001 to 2003 (Article 160 of the Criminal Code) and of laundering those same assets (Article 174 of the Criminal Code). Theses charges were served in absentia in 2005. Alexei is a professional corporate lawyer and a competent and thoughtful person with a good understanding of corporate law issues (which are quite important in the YUKOS case). He is no less knowledgeable about the current Russian government, its structures, and how it works. We met in 2010, when Alexei was studying at Yale [University]. Navalny, a well-known politician who I largely agree with and support, planted the idea in my head that he was just the attorney I needed, since the YUKOS case is one hundred percent political. Therefore, to defend myself, I needed to use not only legal methods but political ones, too.
RUNYweb: You were charged in 2005. Why is your case getting such publicity in January 2012?
P.I.: Back in 2005, the Russian press followed me quite closely. They covered the charges against me in the YUKOS case, the story of my family leaving Moscow, the searches at the law offices of ALM Feldmans (where I worked as a partner providing legal services for [Mikhail] Khodorkovsky and the YUKOS group) and the trials and allegations that followed. Since 2005 I’ve been on an international wanted list, accused as part of the larger ongoing YUKOS case, which has been continuously "investigated" since 2003.
At the end of last summer, I became aware of the fact that arrangements had been made to separate my case from the others, in order to bring it to trial in absentia. So, during the fall, I gathered a small team of attorneys to defend me in the pre-trial investigations. Besides Navalny, other criminal lawyers joined the team, namely Konstantin Ryvkin, the attorney for Platon Lebedev (the YUKOS partner, сonvicted along with Khodorkovsky), and Sergey Kupreychenko. Ryvkin and Kupreychenko have been involved in the YUKOS case for a long time, and since the charges filed against me are identical to some of the charges filed against Lebedev and Khodorkovsky, it seemed logical to me to request the assistance of attorneys familiar with the case.
In December 2011, with the consent of Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, the Presidential Council for the Development of Civic Institutions and Human Rights released the independent “Report on the scientific analysis of court records pertaining to M.B. Khodorkovsky and P.L. Lebedev’s criminal case.” The main conclusion of this report is that Khodorkovsky and Lebedev are not guilty and that their sentence should be reversed. Since the charges filed against me are identical, my lawyers made a motion requesting that the aforementioned Report be included in my case file. The motion was denied. We received the official denial from investigation officer [Farid] Ganiev last week, and we decided to make it public. The post on gazeta.ru provoked a huge response in the Russian media since Navalny was one of the lawyers who signed the request.
RUNYweb: What is your view on Navalny’s nationalist opinions?
P.I.: I do not share those opinions. But what is absolutely clear to me is that Alexei is not a Nazi, an anti-Semite, or an extremist. He stands for a democratic future for the Russian people (who constitute the majority of the Russian Federation's population) and a peaceful and lawful co-existence with other peoples of Russia and all countries of the world. To my mind, Alexei is not exactly correct in calling himself nationalist. In my view, he’s more of a patriot than a Russian nationalist. But these are issues of terminology that don’t change anything.
RUNYweb: Do you share his political opinions?
P.I.: This is a very broad question, but as I have already mentioned, I share most of Navalny’s political opinions. He fights against the regime of crooks and thieves and their leader Mr. Putin, and he aims to force Putin to retreat from power in a nonviolent way so the Russian nation can vote in for in a truly free and democratic election. I think that the recent correspondence between Navalny and [Boris] Akunin (link) clarify Alexei’s basic political positions. I share and uphold all of them, except for nationalism.
RUNYweb: You met Navalny when he was studying at Yale. Can you describe any of his personal traits?
P.I.: He is intelligent, talented, honest, active, a capable manager, charismatic without any megalomania, competent and hard-working. He’s got all that a political leader needs, plus he’s well aware of the fact that one has to struggle alone and not wait for others to catch up. To me, this is the source of Navalny’s strength and the reason there are good prospects for his activism.