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Ex-Pussy Riot Lawyer to Defend Ukrainian Pilot in Russian Court

Pussy Riot's former lawyer will defend the Ukrainian pilot who now sits in a Russian jail. Images mixed by Kevin Rothrock.

Pussy Riot's former lawyer will defend the captured Ukrainian pilot who now sits in a Russian jail. Images mixed by Kevin Rothrock.

Mark Feygin, the lawyer who came to prominence defending members of the Russian opposition, seems to have picked a new cause—and it may have political consequences that eclipse even the effects of the Pussy Riot trial. On July 11, he proclaimed that he would be the new defense lawyer for Nadezhda Savchenko, the Ukrainian air-force pilot captured by separatists in Ukraine and now detained in Russia.

So, folks, I’m defending Nadezhda Savchenko. Starting today.

I promise all Ukrainians that I will do everything possible to save her.

Feygin, who has a political past with stints as the deputy mayor of Samara and a member of the Russian Duma, is best known for his role in 2012 as defense lawyer of the punk band Pussy Riot, when his legal team attempted to counter the women's hooliganism charges. Feygin’s team first lost one of the celebrity trio, when Yekaterina Samutsevich terminated her representation by Feygin’s team, claiming a difference of opinion. Later, she accused Feygin and his colleagues of using the trial for personal publicity. Samutsevich was the only one of the trio to be released on probation, and Feygin later withdrew from the Pussy Riot case altogether, stating his team thought the two remaining band members had a better chance at winning their appeal with new legal representation. Feygin’s other famous clients include Russian activist and opposition member Leonid Razvozzhayev, who accused Russian authorities of kidnapping him in Kyiv, Ukraine, to prosecute him on terrorism charges.

Feygin's new case, the trial of Nadezhda Savchenko, remains murky, as it is still not quite clear how she went from being captured by pro-Russian rebels in Eastern Ukraine at the end of June (there’s a video of her interrogation on June 23) to detained in a pre-trial facility in the Russian city of Voronezh in early July. Russian authorities claim she crossed the border as a refugee, a claim the Ukrainian side says is patently ridiculous. Now on Russian territory, Savchenko is being accused of the murder of two Russian TV journalists from VGTRK, who died during combat in Eastern Ukraine in June. Savchenko, 33, who earlier served in Iraq, has quickly captured the attention of the twittering masses, resulting in a #SaveOurGirl campaign on Twitter (itself a riff on the earlier RuNet #SaveOurGuys campaign to rescue LifeNews journalists detained in Ukraine). Echo of Moscow’s Yulia Latynina has already dubbed the Ukrainian aviatrix the “Jeanne D’Arc” of her time. On the other hand, a Russian tabloid allegedly described Savchenko as the “daughter of Satan.” 

The labels may not be very helpful, but they certainly help garner attention for her plight.

Nadiya Savchenko, the Ukrainian pilot captured by Donbas rebels and transferred mysteriously to Russia. Inforesist.org.

With such heated discussion on both sides—fed by the already raging tensions between Ukraine and Russia—Feygin finds himself with quite the case. He has said he doubts the accusations brought against Savchenko are legal and considers her removal from Ukraine over the border into Russia “basically a kidnapping,” which would make it difficult to bring any legitimate charges against her. Two other lawyers, Nikolay Polozov (who also worked on the Pussy Riot case) and Ilya Novikov, will join Feygin on the defense team.

In Savchenko’s case, I will be joined by Nikolay Polozov and Ilya Novikov. Great processualists and reliable people in general.

Although some Ukrainian and Russian Internet users reacted with hope to news of Feygin taking up Savchenko’s case, most have been skeptical about his ability to win. Pessimism aside, Ukrainian Twitter user Roman Kulyk thinks the public nature of the case might have certain advantages:

With the [proper] orchestration and working with the media, the Savchenko case can become the new “Dreyfuss affair”* and an argument in the negotiations […]

Russian journalist Alexey Naryshkin was less optimistic about Feygin’s entrance:

Ukrainian pilot Savchenko to be defended by lawyers Mark Feygin and Nikolay Polozov… “What luck.”

An equally dismissive reaction came from United Russia politician and Internet media producer Konstantin Rykov:

Pilot Savchenko will be defended by Pussy Riot lawyer Mark Feygin […] poor hit girl..

Others on the RuNet echoed this sentiment, with at least one Twitter user saying that Savchenko is destined for a Russian prison:

[…] Lawyer Feygin defended Pussy Riot, and also promised them freedom, but each of his defendants got a term in the camps. Savchenko will also serve time.

Although both Nadya Tolokno and Masha Alekhina of Pussy Riot remained conspicuously silent on the Feygin news, Yekaterina Samutsevich took the opportunity to comment on his past record:

Saw the news that Feygin wants to be Savchenko’s lawyer. I would not wish it upon anyone to become a “client” of such a lawyer. He brought me lots of harm.

Twitter user Александр_VRN thought Feygin’s decision places him in the ranks of the much-maligned anti-government “fifth column” in Russia:

Nazis from Ukraine now have a defender in Russia – lawyer Feygin. This here is the fifth column.

Feygin himself shared a screenshot from his email inbox, with scathing messages to the same effect:

Some recent [messages]
[screenshot text]
Name: yegor
Email: rn4acb@mail.ru
Question: well, scum, congratulations
your destruction will be described in textbooks!
you went against RUSSIA and the number of those wishing to tear your balls off is legion!

Although Mark Feygin’s record as the dissenters’ defender is not stellar, it is undeniable that he lends the Savchenko case some much-needed publicity. And that, in the end, may be the very thing that is needed for the case to be won or thrown out, while igniting passions and debate online.

*For more about the Dreyfus affair, see here.
  • Mellow Jessica

    Death to the Russian Invaders and all who support them in their illegal campaign of murder and mayhem in eastern Ukraine!

    The global forces of anti-fascist freedom will avenge the murder of nearly 300 innocent international travelers by killing all pro-Russian separatist hooligans fighting against legitimate government of Ukraine.

    Russians who support Putin’s warmongering are scum-of-the-earth and all should receive same treatment as that meted out to corrupt Soviet commissars by NKVD during Stalin’s reign of terror – pistol shot to back of head!

    die, Russian scum!!!

    Die! Die! Die!

    • Efrem

      Are YOU ready to go to fight with separatists? If not, shut up!

      • Mellow Jessica

        Are YOU ready to go to fight with separatists? If not, shut up!

        I would NEVER fight WITH the criminal terrorist pro-Russian thugs who murder innocent civilian air travellers and then pillage their possessions and steal jewelry from corpses.

        However, I would keenly fight AGAINST them if it were an option, but the USGOVT restricts Americans from going off to serve in foreign military forces, unless you’re a dual-citizen and your service is not treasonous.

        I’m not a citizen of Ukraine since I was born in USA, but I would love to echo my Ukrainian great grandfather’s noble service in 14. SS-Freiwilligen Division “Galizien” and fight against the Russian invaders!

        I am wishing that Obama would give me permission to go, and that Poroshenko would personally place AK-47 in my hands and let me pump 7.62mm rounds into exploding hearts of all the cryptofascist ex-Soviet thugs ordered into Ukraine by Putin!!

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