Must leave, Russia tells U.S. citizen

Activist says order to wife targets him

Posted: August 6, 2014 at 5:04 a.m.

MOSCOW -- Russia's Federal Migration Service on Tuesday moved to deport the American wife of a high-profile human-rights lawyer living in St. Petersburg, labeling her "a threat to national security."

Ivan Pavlov, 43, founded the Institute for Freedom of Information Development, which he said strove to make the Russian government more transparent, in 2004. He was one of a handful of activists who met with President Barack Obama on the sidelines of the G-20 summit meeting in St. Petersburg last September.

His wife, Jennifer Gaspar, 43, has lived in Russia for a decade, working for a variety of nongovernmental organizations, including groups focused on human-rights issues and one that raised money for the storied Hermitage Museum.

The expulsion order arrived in the mail Tuesday, and Pavlov linked it to a long tradition of forcing government critics into exile.

"They know if they expel her, it means that I will go with her," Pavlov said. "I think it is their attempt to push me out of the country."

The move comes amid a darkening climate for human-rights organizations in Russia and the worst Russian-U.S. relations in decades.

No one from the Foreign Ministry nor the Federal Migration Service could be reached for comment late Tuesday.

The letter did not specify any reasons Gaspar, from Radnor, Pa., would be considered a threat.

It said only that her residency permit, issued for a year in February, was null and that she had to leave Russia within two weeks of the date the letter was written, July 21. (It took more than two weeks for the post office to deliver it.)

Gaspar called the accusation "absurd" and said the Russian government was trying to break up a family: The couple married in 2005 and have a 5-year-old daughter.

"This is an incredibly inappropriate move on the part of the government to deport the mother of a young Russian citizen," Gaspar said.

Pavlov said he planned to file an appeal today to both halt the deportation and force the government to say in court why his wife was considered a threat.

He said his interaction with the government had turned markedly worse after he met with Obama, when he talked to him about improving transparency in the United States. Russian government agents called that meeting "political work" and tried to force his foundation to register as a "foreign agent," he said.

Pavlov said he was optimistic that he would win the right to keep his wife and daughter in Russia.

"I believe in Russia," he said. "We never worked against Russia -- not me, not Jennifer."

A Section on 08/06/2014