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article imageRussian mother accused of treason returns from prison 'hell'

By Anna Smolchenko (AFP)     Feb 4, 2015 in World

A Russian mother of seven accused of treason for allegedly informing Ukraine about possible troop movements told AFP on Wednesday she felt as if she had "returned from hell" after two weeks in jail.

"Arrest, detention, the putting on of handcuffs...I was in shock," Svetlana Davydova, who was released from custody late Tuesday, told AFP by phone from her home in Vyazma, west of Moscow.

"I felt as if I returned from hell."

Davydova was accused of high treason after she called the Ukrainian embassy last April with information on possible Russian troop movements.

She was arrested on January 21 by a group of men in black uniform who burst into her apartment.

The 36-year-old, who was still breastfeeding a two-and-a-half-month-old daughter, was held in the high-security Lefortovo jail in Moscow.

The harsh treatment of the woman and her family sparked an outcry in Moscow, where rights activists said her prosecution marked a new low in a campaign to stifle dissent.

Davydova was released Tuesday night after more than 50,000 people, including Oscar-nominated director Andrei Zvyagintsev and Natalya Solzhenitsyna, widow of Nobel literature laureate Alexander Solzhenitsyn, petitioned President Vladimir Putin to let the woman return to her children.

But the charges have not been dropped and she still faces up between 12 and 20 years in prison.

A slim, bespectacled woman, Davydova said she does not know what lies ahead.

Svetlana Davydova  a mother of seven accused of treason for telling the Ukrainian embassy about Russ...
Svetlana Davydova, a mother of seven accused of treason for telling the Ukrainian embassy about Russian troop movements, after being released from prison in Moscow on February 3, 2015
Philipp Kireev, AFP

"Right now I am recuperating. I am very tired. I am resting," she said.

She added it was hard being away from her family and not being able to explain to her children who wondered why she had not been in touch.

"I was isolated," she said. "It was only yesterday when I spoke with my husband for the first time."

But she did not resent her prison guards who she said "just did their job."

And she even may miss some things from prison.

"Their fish soup was really tasty," she laughed.

But she grew instantly serious when asked whether she called the Ukrainian embassy last year.

"I don't want to talk about this," she said firmly.

-'Case just beginning'-

Davydova phoned the Ukrainian embassy in April 2014 to allegedly report that a military base located near her residential building in Vyazma had emptied, suggesting its soldiers might have been deployed across the border.

She also purportedly informed embassy staff she had overheard a serviceman saying troops from the Russian military intelligence service, the GRU, would be sent on a mission -- presumably to Ukraine.

Davydova's lawyer told AFP she should brace for what may be a long fight against the FSB security service, successor to the feared Soviet-era KGB.

"Svetlana's case is just beginning," lawyer Ivan Pavlov said.

Davydova and her husband Anatoly Gorlov profusely thanked activists and media for helping publicise her case.

"She is just a small grain of sand that the state machine would grind to dust," Gorlov said.

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