Russian mother of seven Svetlana Davydova was imprisoned for a month and 25 days on January 29, 2015 on suspicion of treason, the latest detention linked to a conflict in which Russia continues to deny its involvement.
Davydova, 36, who had been on maternity leave looking after her youngest child, a 2 month-old daughter, in the town of Vyazma, some 240 kilometres west of the capital Moscow, when she was arrested for a phone call she made to the Ukrainian Embassy some nine months ago.
According to a report in Radio Free Europe
, Davydova heard that troops were to be deployed in Ukraine from an overheard conversation of a military officer in a shared taxi, and having seen troop movements in the local military base which she could see from her apartment, she decided to take action, according to her husband, Anatoly Gorlov.
“I presume it was simply an emotional phone call to the Ukrainian Embassy,” he said. “She saw the emptied-out base, made some assumption, and expressed her wish that no one else would die.”
That phone call took place in April 2014, and Davydova wa detained last week in Vyazma, before Moscow's Lefortovo Court ordered her detention for a month and 25 days, apart from her family and young daughter. Gorlov has been told he may be able to visit his wife next week.
Prior to her detention, Davydova's apartment was raided by FSB agents, who found a diary among other things, according to her husband.
"The diary entry, according to investigators, said Russian soldiers were planning to arrive in Moscow in civilian clothing and receive weapons there, Gorlov said, citing a report by investigators on the raid of the family’s apartment."
Davydova is not the only incarcerated woman attracting international comment. The LA Times reported on the case of Ukrainian Nadezhda Savchenko
on January 29, 2015, a Ukrainian army officer and lawmaker currently on hunger strike in Russian custody. Accused of complicity in the deaths of two Russian journalists in eastern Ukraine, Savchecko claims to have been kidnapped and sent to Russia, while having nothing to do with the case of the deceased journalists.
Davydova's arrest has not gone unnoticed. A Facebook group in Russian 'Help Svetlana Davydova
' has been set up, while prominent activist Svetlana Bakhmina has started a petition on Change.org
, which had more than 3,000 signatures within hours. Bakhmina herself is no stranger to the Russian penal system. As a former legal executive of Yukos, she along with Mikhail Khodorovsky, was imprisoned on charges of tax evasion and embezzlement.
Digital Journal contacted the 'Help Svetlana Davydova' Facebook group for comment, and received the following replies. Perhaps in the light of the current situation in Russia, the true feelings of the administrator were perhaps not expressed in full.
1. Who is Svetlana Davydova and where does she live?
Svetlana Davydova is an ordinary woman who lives in Vyazma, Smolensk oblast.
2. What crime has she supposedly commited?
She is accused of treason for making a phone call to the Ukrainian Embassy and informing diplomats that some military personnel from a local military base were being deployed to Ukraine. She came to know about it from a telephone conversation of a military officer which she had overheard while sharing a taxi.
3. Why was Svetlana incarcerated into the Lefortovo Prison Castle, and not placed under house arrest? Do you think she is a flight threat and could continue harming the Russian state?
It is a question for the investigators, from what is known, jailing seems an excessive measure.
4. Why was she arrested now? She made her call to the Ukrainian Embassy in April 2014.
We do not know this.
5. Nadezhda Savchenko, a Ukrainian lawmaker and one of Ukraine's delegates to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, is being held in pre-trial detention in Russia after being abducted from Ukraine. Don’t you think that the Russian state considers women a larger threat for the regime than men?
It is difficult to comment on this.
While questions remain on Russia's alleged troop deployment in Ukraine, the case of Svetlana Davydova also highlights some other important issues, such as the imprisonment of a mother away from a young child, as well as the seemingly excessive punishment administered some nine months after an emotional phone call.