City officials in Lisbon are coming under fire after a group of activists who organized a pro-Navalny rally outside of the Russian Embassy earlier this year discovered that their personal details were shared with the Russian authorities. The activists found out via an email chain sent to them by the Portuguese Health Ministry that Lisbon City Council had passed their information to both Russia’s diplomatic mission in Portugal and police officials in Moscow. Lisbon City Council has since issued an official apology and reportedly halted its “common practice” of sharing the personal details of activists who organize protests near embassies with foreign diplomats.
On June 9, the Portuguese news sites Observador and Expresso reported that Lisbon City Council had provided the Russian authorities with the personal details of three activists who organized a pro-Navalny rally outside of the Russian Embassy back in January.
The Russian Embassy in Lisbon, as well as the Russian Interior Ministry, were given the names, addresses, phone numbers, and identification numbers of the three organizers, writes the newspaper Público. The activists had provided the city council with their personal details, as part of the preparations for a pro-Navalny rally in Lisbon on January 23. According to the radio station Renascença, two of the three organizers are dual citizens of Russia and Portugal.
The activists found out that Lisbon City Council had shared their information with the Russian authorities through an email from the Portuguese Health Ministry, which was providing them with public health recommendations in light of the coronavirus pandemic. Pavel Elizarov, who was one of the rally’s organizers, wrote on Facebook that the health ministry had sent an email with a PDF attached that contained the protest organizers’ personal information — the email chain revealed that this PDF was originally attached to a message sent to the email addresses of the Russian Embassy in Portugal and the Russian Interior Ministry.
Lisbon City Council acknowledged the mistake and issued an official apology. According to Elizarov, municipal officials claimed that sharing this type of information was “common practice for rallies that take place near embassies.” As of April 18, the Lisbon authorities have stopped notifying the representatives of other countries about people who organize rallies near diplomatic missions, the radio station TSF reports.
One of the other organizers, Ksenia Ashrafullina — who has Portuguese citizenship — told journalists that she’s afraid to return to Russia due to possible persecution. In a comment to the newspaper Público, Ashrafullina said that the activists plan to file a complaint against the Lisbon City Council for sharing their personal information with Moscow.
Against the backdrop of these events, some Portuguese politicians have called for Lisbon Mayor Fernando Medina to resign.
about the pro-Navalny protests
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Translation by Eilish Hart