Russian-German lawyer detained in St Petersburg, media say on suspicion of treason

By Lucy Papachristou and Riham Alkousaa

LONDON/BERLIN (Reuters) - A man with dual Russian-German nationality has been detained in St Petersburg, according to news reports and people who know him, with some Russian independent media reporting that he is suspected of treason.

German Moyzhes, a 39-year-old lawyer who grew up partly in Germany but had returned to live and work in his native country, joins a growing list of foreign nationals detained in Russia who have found themselves caught up in the crisis in relations between Moscow and the West during the Ukraine war.

The German Foreign Ministry confirmed Moyzhes' arrest in a statement to Reuters and said its embassy in Moscow was in contact with his family.

"The case is known to the Foreign Office. It concerns a person with German and Russian citizenship", a foreign ministry official said.

The official said that Moscow has for two years denied Germany consular access to its jailed citizens, but said Berlin remains "strongly committed to consular access in this and other cases".

Russian authorities have not officially confirmed Moyzhes' arrest and no charges have been filed.

Several Russian independent media reported that Moyzhes is accused of treason, which can carry a life sentence, but have not provided details to substantiate that. Acquittals in treason cases are nearly unheard of in Russia.

His lawyer could not be reached for comment.

Moyzhes was active in civic life in St Petersburg and helped start a cycling association called "Let's Go", which campaigned for better road safety.

"German is a very kind, sympathetic and caring person", said Kristina Shvetsova, a member of "Let's Go" who has known Moyzhes since 2022. "The news of his detention came as a shock to me and everyone who knows him".

Shvetsova said that Moyzhes had moved to Germany as a child, where he completed university, but returned to Russia about six years ago. He maintained ties to Germany and donated money to a synagogue in Baden-Baden, according to the Jewish publication Jüdische Allgemeine.

Moyzhes worked as a lawyer and managing partner for Avers Group Germany, a Cologne-based consultancy, according to the company website.

The website says the firm provides business support and property management services and also assists wealthy citizens of post-Soviet countries including Russia to obtain German residency permits.

Avers Group Germany did not return a telephone call and did not reply to an emailed request for comment.

Avers Group, the parent company headquartered in St Petersburg, did not reply to multiple requests for comment by email.

It was not clear if Moyzhes' arrest was connected with his professional work.

The St Petersburg newspaper Fontanka reported that Moyzhes was arrested in late May while cycling near his apartment and was transferred to Moscow's Lefortovo prison.

Russian authorities did not reply to a request for comment.

Shvetsova described Moyzhes as a law-abiding citizen who had run afoul of the law only once before, when he was arrested and tried last year for obstructing pedestrian traffic during a cycling race. He was found not guilty, she said.

Reuters could not independently confirm the details of that case.

The list of Westerners currently jailed in Russia includes at least a dozen Americans, as well as Laurent Vinatier, a French researcher who was placed in pre-trial detention last week after authorities said he failed to register as a foreign agent while gathering information about the Russian military.

(Reporting by Lucy Papachristou in London and Riham Alkousaa in Berlin; Writing by Lucy Papachristou; Editing by Mark Trevelyan)