Mark Feygin Treating Pussies Badly

Everybody in the Western media seems to have forgotten Pussy Riot. Well, not forgotten, they still wheel them out every so often as symbols of the repressiveness of the Putin regime – but news of actual developments in the affair have come to a standstill. Which is a pity, because they undermine the commonly accepted narrative about what it was in the first place.

I am talking, of course, about the estrangement of Pussy Riot from their original trio of lawyers – Mark Feygin, Nikolay Polozov, and Violetta Volkova. This began approximately when they Pussy Riot lost their case and got sent off to jail, which led them to switch lawyers. Their new lawyer, Irina Khrunova, managed to get Samutsevich (one of the Pussies) released by arguing that she was not an active participant in the “performance.” Khrunova continues to represent the other two who are still in jail. Here is pretty much the only article you will find out about this in the Western media. (Funny that it’s in The Independent, and not in the Guardian, which was otherwise Pussy Riot’s most fiery supporter).

Then Mark Feygin, via his wife’s company, tried to register the Pussy Riot brand. Pussy Riot claims that he did not have their permission to do so and that it was an attempt to cash in on the case. Feygin denies this, saying that he did have permission and that his intentions were to prevent OTHERS from unscrupulously profiting off the name. He says the newspapers smeared him. In any case this is a moot point anyway, as Russia’s patent office denied them their trademark anyway; but this was just one of a series of wedges that would alienate the lawyers from the Pussies.

Things moved up into critical mode when Samutsevich asked Russia’s bar association to consider Volkova’s status as a lawyer, and now, to dismiss her. This prompted a furious, vitriolic, and frankly stunning reaction from the lawyers:

Mark Feygin: Samutsevich again requested the Association to disbar Violetta Volkova!

Mark Feygin: Without a doubt, we are dealing with a RAT here!

Mark Feygin: As regards Samutsevich, I still can’t forget that Big Mac which Violetta brought to her in her pre-trial detention… How could one be such an ungrateful rat?

(AK: A whole BIG MAC? How *generous* of her!)

Also, in response to a commentator, who tweeted:

Marina Marinina: Have you ever noticed that if a person looks ugly on the outside, she’s also probably ugly on the inside?

Mark Feygin: Yep, I noticed.

(AK: Funny, that. Marina Marinina hardly strikes me as a star in the looks department. Let alone Volkova LOL).

Nikolay Polozov: The regime eggs on Samutsevich to debar Volkova on the threshold of her defense of Udaltsov in soon forthcoming trials. The rat earns her keep.

Violetta Volkova, replying to a commentator: I can only say one thing – Samutsevich could not have written this complaint by herself. She was helped a lot – but this is just my private opinion.

Elsewhere by the pattern of her re-Tweets she makes it quite clear that she agrees with the theory that Samutsevich is a rat, though she does not use the actual word herself unlike her two colleagues.

There are two ways of looking at this.

(1) From the lawyers’ side:

Mark Feygin: In Russia, we all know that Samutsevich agreed with the Kremlin. So let her go

That, and now she is working on their orders, trying to discredit their work.

(2) From (what I assume to be) Samutsevich’s, and perhaps the other two’s, side:

Feygin and Co. are not so much lawyers as political activists posing as lawyers, whose primary concern is not so much the welfare of their clients (e.g. keeping them out of prison) as smearing egg all over the Kremlin’s face. This explains the decision to switch them for Irina Khrunova and the general acrimony between them since.

Frankly, with their online behavior, I think the lawyers have – if anything – lent more credence to #2. Calling out a former client of yours as a “rat” is extremely unprofessional, something you might see in a “Lawyers from Hell” episode. Who on Earth would want to be represented by them in the future? When you know that if you have issues with their defense strategy and professional ethics you will be subjected to an online barrage of smears from them and their liberal opposition groupies?

I know who! The professional revolutionaries like Udaltsov, who would gladly go to jail if it made the “regime” look bad.  And what then would that make the lawyers? It would make them their professional enablers.


  1. Ildar Adi says:

    I don’t think this will anyhow tarnish Pussy Riot trio’s heroine image in the West (and for the record, I think they are heroines albeit accidental ones). But what this for sure does, if it gets more publicity, is that Pussy Riot is seen as abandoned and thrown under the bus by everyone in Russia. And it certainly also doesn’t exactly increase trust in Russian legal professionals and system. Like they needed more of this kind of mud. I cannot see who this case can be seen as a propaganda victory for Russia, or even for Putin. It is just sad and awfully messy. Which is how Russia is seen in the West.

    • I disagree. If the media in the west was not embarrassed by this sorry episode they would be reporting it. The reason they are not reporting it is precisely because it refutes the central argument the media in the west has made about Pussy Riot and their case, which is that they had a political show trial. The fact that they in part blame their own lawyers for the outcome of the trial is not easily reconcilable with this claim.

      As to Pussy Riot being heroines, I disagree with that as well. They are a group of young political activists who got carried away and when carrying out a protest went too far and further than they realised. If they are anything they are the victims of their lawyers and of their supporters, including their supporters in the west who have wildly overplayed the importance of this case. As I have consistently said, if right from the start of the case they had (and if their lawyers had advised them and their supporters had urged them) admitted that what they did was wrong and that they had gone too far and had offered a complete and unequivocal apology (which need not have compromised on their radical political beliefs) and had admitted that they had committed a crime for which they felt truly sorry, a plea bargain would surely have been done and they would by now be free.

      • Actually, Pussy Riot are already falling out with the western press. Samutsevich accused der Spiegel of “media war” and defamation, intends to sue.

        • Dear AM.

          A very interesting interview by the way. It confirms for me two things:

          1. That if Pussy Riot had been given proper advice at the start of the case it would have been possible to do a deal. As Samutsevitch says they were all fired up when they did what they did in the Cathedral and did not realise the seriousness of what they had done. Apparently they expected to get nothing more than a fine, the same sort of penalty they had received before. Samutsevitch says that when the lawyers finally warned them of the possibility that they could face 2 years in prison, it came as a shock. Samutsevitch says that Pussy Riot were under pressure from the prosecutors to confess. This is not wrong or sinister, what it means is that the prosecutors were looking for a plea bargain, which because Pussy Riot were not being advised properly or at all they rejected. Reading Samutsevitch’s comments it is clear to me that if this had been explained to Pussy Riot by their lawyers and if they had been properly advised on that basis then the case would have gone in a completely different direction.

          2. Samutsevitch also confirms what I have always believed, that it was her father who advised her to change lawyers. It is not widely known but Samutsevitch’s father was a witness at the trial during which he said on his daughter’s behalf that she should be distinguished from the other two defendants because she did not participate in the actual performance though she had wanted to. This is the exactly the argument that Khrunova made on her behalf and which succeeded on appeal. Volkova, Feigin and Polozov did not make this argument at the trial and coming as it did purely from a witness it had no impact. However the fact the father made it shows that he had already obtained legal advice, almost certainly from Khrunova, even before the trial began. In other words Khrunova was almost certainly already working on the case well before she was formally instructed, which explains why she was able to get up to speed on things so quickly in time for the appeal.

        • Ildar Adi says:

          Here is the original (auf Englisch) Der Spiegel article:

          Not exactly a PR victory for Putin.

          • Dear Ildar,

            This is a very nasty article about Samutsevitch which looks to me like it has been inspired by the lawyers. I can completely understand why she might want to bring a libel claim over it, though I would strongly advise her against it.

            However I completely fail to see what Putin wins or loses from this article though if anything a German reader seeing dissension in the group would probably feel that on balance he is coming out the winner.

  2. A masterly summary as always Anatoly.

    I would only make one comment. I agree that Volkova, Feigin and Polozov are simply political activists who were prepared to sacrifice the welfare of their clients to embarrass the Kremlin. The point is that they are also incompetent political activists. Their mishandling of the trial and the case did not in the end embarrass the Kremlin before the Russian people (who are the only people who ultimately matter). What it did instead was lose their clients the sympathy of the great majority of the Russian people whilst landing them in prison with a much longer prison term than they might otherwise have had and than they deserved.

    Being a good lawyer and a good political activist are not in contradiction with each other. On the contrary they compliment each other. Everything I have seen and heard about Khrunova, Pussy Riot’s present lawyer, reassures that she is a good and highly professional lawyer who knows her job and who acts in her clients’ best interests. Khrunova is however a member of Agora, one of the NGOs that receives foreign funding, and is therefore surely someone with opposition views. It’s just that she probably (and rightly) believes that getting her clients out of prison is more compatible with her political views and her political objectives than leaving them there.

    • I’m more amazed at the overt brazenness of the lawyers’ rhetoric than anything else. I mean I can well imagine it from bloggers, including the most glorified ones, but people with something of a professional reputation to maintain?

  3. moscowexile says:

    Speaking as someone not from the outside looking in through a distorting lens, I should imagine that the vast majority of Russian citizens do not consider Pussy Riot in any way as “heroines”, and it those very Russian citizens who are, as Alexander Mercouris has so rightly in my opinion pointed out, “the only people who ultimately matter” in this instance, .

    • Fedia Kriukov says:

      Indeed, Ildar Adi is a little late to the party. One of the benefits of Russia’s disappointment with the west is that these arguments about the need for Russia to maintain its image in the western media are becoming less and less relevant. Russia should just do what is right by Russians, without paying any attention to the western propaganda machinery. I realize I’m saying something that’s obvious, but unfortunately this attitude hasn’t always been present in framing Russian domestic policies.

    • Ildar Adi says:

      I’ve failed to notice anyone claim in the Western MSM that Pussy Riot enjoyed a support of majority of Russians. I think it is fairly often reported that feminism, LGBT-rights and other minority rights, the main themes of Pussy Riot act, are irrelevant, at best, to most Russians.

      • Firstly Ildar, I should thank you for providing the first full article I have seen in a western magazine to go into thoroughly the question of the dispute between Pussy Riot and their lawyers. By the way I think it is significant that the article appeared in a German magazine rather than a British or American one. I have just come back from Germany and I was struck (and not for the first time) at how much closer Germany is to Russia than are Britain and the US. I strongly suspect that the Pussy Riot story is being far more fully reported there than in Britain and the US, which explains the article in Der Spiegel (a magazine closely linked to the Guardian), which is very obviously based on information provided by the lawyers and which looks to me like a rather desperate attempt to preserve the “heroic” western narrative of the case.

        I say this because in all respects I think this article refutes your point. It begins by saying that until Pussy Riot’s cause was supposedly betrayed by Samutsevitch, Pussy Riot were becoming “a symbol of opposition to Putin”. What is that if not a claim of Pussy Riot’s popularity in Russia at least with Russians who oppose the government? The annoyance and embarrassment at the way in which this has proved to be untrue is shown by Der Spiegel’s disgraceful attempt to scapegoat Samutsevitch for it.

        • Ildar Adi says:

          First of all; the article, or more broadly even common sense, does not suggest that being a symbol equals, prerequisites, or implicates popularity. Secondly; the article actually reads:

          “Pussy Riot ( … ) became a symbol of the resistance to the Putin regime, at least abroad”.

          • Dear Ildar,

            If they are not a symbol of resistance in Russiia then they are not a symbol of resistance at all since by definition the resistance of which they are said to be a symbol can only exist in Russia. The article refers to Russia’s government as “the Putin regime”, once again calling into question its legitimacy, which explains the “resistance” to it. What the article therefore says or at least implies is that but for Samutsevitch’s “betrayal” Pussy Riot would have become a symbol of resistance to an illegitimate government, which in turn means that they are popular with anti government Russians who, since the Russian government is illegitimate, must by definition be the majority.

            The qualifying words “at least abroad” are however important because they give the game away. They show that the writer knows perfectly well that this whole construction is nonsense and that it has been entirely concocted to delude western opinion. The cynicism of this and indeed of the whole article is revolting. What the article does is in effect say that Samutsevitch should have chosen to remain in prison so that the western media could have had their story and that she has committed a “betrayal” by not doing so. In other words she and the two others should continue to immolate themselves so that the western media can continue to concoct a story the writer of the article knows is false.

      • Isn’t the opinion of the majority that which counts, or is this not the case when it comes to Russia?

        If the majority of public opinion outside Russia is supportive of the Pussy Riot “heroines”, whereas the majority of public opinion within Russia is not supportive of them, does this mean that the majority opinion in Russia, the opinion of the citizenship of a sovereign state, is of no import?

        In other words, who makes the decisions when it comes to Russia: the Russians themselves or the opinionated chatterers who are neither Russian citizens nor do
        they live in Russia?

        • Ildar Adi says:

          I’ve said it before – if the majority of Russians are happy with the way things are going there now, the only correct policy that the West should have towards Russia is containment in all fronts. Looks increasingly that this is the way things gonna go. Ideas of “strategic partnership”, “partnership for modernisation” and “change through entanglement” are being abandoned as we write.

          I also think that those opinionated chatterers and bloggers who are neither Russian citizens nor live in Russia should have no saying in decision making in Russia.

          • Fedia Kriukov says:

            Containment makes sense only if Russia is expanding. Since Russia isn’t expanding, then your “containment” is simply aggression. Well, if you want to speak in those terms, it’s your right, but you should recall what happened to the leader of the previous European Union who decided to “contain” Russia in 1941…

          • So Russians hold different values to the West, so they should be “punished” for it? I guess just like Turkey was being snubbed for years by the EU, and now they prefer SCO.

            • I second AM’s comment.

              All my life western policy has been to contain Russia. That policy has never changed and continues even as all the reasons and excuses for it fall away. Now I am told that Russia should be contained simply because Russians are satisfied with the state of Russia, as if it is the opinion of westerners about the state of Russia that should take precedence over the opinion of Russians about the state of their own country. What is that if not punishing Russians and Russia for simply being Russians and Russia?

              It is hardly surprising therefore that as westerners are not prepared to engage with Russia except on their own impossible terms, Russians are becoming increasingly less interested in engaging with the west. The previous article on this blog, which discussed the growing Russian Chinese rapprochement, shows what that means. Doubtless some people, possibly including yourself, look on this with equanimity. Personally, speaking as a westerner, when I think back to the opportunities the west had in the 1980s and 1990s, which it threw away out of arrogance, short sightedness and stupidity, I cannot help but feel angry and bitter. I am no prophet but I fully expect to see learned books and articles in the west about how the west “lost Russia” and how “the east was lost” before I’m done.

          • Generally containment is the very only policy of the West as a block in relation to other countries. They want to rule, decide what are the right values, exploit natural resources, buy out all the property for “fraud” money and “paying peanuts for working monkeys” in the end of the plan. They “work” this way in Africa, Asia, Russia, they want to get the product of the lives of all people of worlds`s population at all.

  4. “I also think that those opinionated chatterers and bloggers who are neither Russian citizens nor live in Russia should have no saying in decision making in Russia.”


    • Quite funny, yes. The first person it would disqualify on this thread would be Ildar himself. 😆

  5. Ildar Adi says:

    All I’m saying is that there exists a deep wide values chasm between the West and Russia that cannot be bridged in the foreseeable future. Their respective core values have diverged from each other so much that the absolutely best that can be realistically hoped for is is mutually beneficial economic relations. But presicely because of the massive gap in understanding what is important in dignified human life Russia is limbing away from the Western economic and security orbit towards Central Asia, where Russia increasingly belongs politically, culturally and to some extent even ethnically.

    Containment doesn’t equal aggression. It is just a realisation of understanding that Russia has chosen a path which complitely different from the West’s.

    • Fedia Kriukov says:

      What values gap? What do you mean by “core values”? Why don’t you list these “core values” and explain how Russian views on them differ from “western”? In short, be more specific.

      So far the only real gap I can observe is on the issue of honesty. Russians lie less. You might also say there is a values gap on the role of the state that Russians traditionally view as paternalist, but that gap splits the west itself between the US and Europe, with Russia being on the European side.

      Also, your analysis of the dynamics of the current situation puzzles me. You claim that Russia is drifting toward more traditional and conservative values (what you label “Central Asia” for some cheap propaganda effect, I suppose), but quite demonstrably the exact opposite is true. I’m tempted to ask about what you’re smoking…

      Finally, if you believe that “containment doesn’t equal aggression”, explain which specific measures you include under “containment”? Anything traditionally understood by “containment” would lead to a war of some kind. If your understanding of the term is non-traditional, then you need to define it clearly, instead of operating with vague but emotionally-charged terminology that you might’ve heard somewhere, but haven’t quite grasped.

  6. What I think about Samutsevitch versus Volkova. Samutsevitch has right to ask ban of the lawyer who did not act on behalf and in interest of the client which basic condition of working in the advocacy. Politics is very marginal, the ethics was broken and that is the core of the problem…