Georgia: refusal of entry for HRDs Dariana Gryaznova & Evgenii Smirnov (joint communication)

The following is based on a communication written by the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders and other UN experts to the Government of Georgia on 27 June 2023. The communication remained confidential for 60 days before being made public, giving the Government time to reply. Regrettably, the Government did not reply within this time frame. If a reply is received it will be posted on the UN Special Procedures communications database.

Since the communication was sent, Dariana Gryaznova appealed the decision to refuse her entry at the border.

This is a shorter version of the original communication.

Read the full communication


Topic: alleged refusal of entry to Georgia for human rights defenders Ms. Dariana Gryaznova and Mr. Evgenii Smirnov and the alleged recognition as a “threat to national security” and revocation of the residence permit of the latter, all of which were allegedly related to their legitimate human rights work.

Ms. Dariana Gryaznova is a Russian woman human rights defender and lawyer. She litigates cases with a particular focus on women’s rights and non-discrimination, as well as environmental rights and other human rights issues.

Mr. Evgenii Smirnov is a Russian human rights defender and lawyer. He has represented dozens of individuals and organisations in allegedly politically motivated cases and currently specialises in high treason and espionage cases in Russia. He also assists Ukrainian prisoners of war and refugees.


Ms. Dariana Gryaznova and Mr. Evgenii Smirnov are both Russian citizens and have been in an unmarried partner relationship since January 2016.

While in Russia, both Ms. Gryaznova and Mr. Smirnov found themselves at risk because of their legitimate peaceful human rights work. Mr. Smirnov has faced surveillance since 2015, raids on his office in April 2021, disciplinary proceedings, and the closure of his human rights organisation, Team 29, which was deemed “undesirable” as per article 284.1 of the Criminal Code. Similarly, since 2021 Ms. Dariana Gryaznova has been targeted online by pro-government groups who slander her for her anti-war activism.

Situation in Georgia

Because of the increasing pressure, at the end of August 2021, Ms. Dariana Gryaznova and Mr. Evgenii Smirnov had to leave Russia and moved to Georgia. Georgia was the most suitable country to continue their human rights work related to Russia because of the large community of Russian human rights defenders and proximity to Russia, making it easy to hold meetings and trainings with other human rights defenders.

According to the information received, the visa policy of Georgia allows Russian citizens to enter, reside, work, and study in Georgia without the necessity to obtain either a visa or a residence permit for one full year, and this term can be reset by departing and re-entering Georgia.

Ms. Gryaznova and Mr. Smirnov have developed close ties with Georgia and intended to stay there long-term. They have been learning Georgian since November 2021 and bought a house in May 2022. In May 2022, Ms. Gryaznova registered as an individual entrepreneur in Georgia.

Soon after moving to Georgia, Ms. Gryaznova and Mr. Smirnov started to encounter problems with re-entering the country. Their documents were photographed at the border and sent somewhere, and they were asked to wait while their entry was coordinated over the phone. As a result, they had to minimise their work trips outside Georgia.

In August 2022, Mr. Smirnov travelled to the Czech Republic to interview a witness in the case of one of his clients. Upon his return, on 22 August 2022, he was refused entry to Georgia at the border at the Tbilisi Airport and deported to Istanbul, the destination of his stopover on his way to Tbilisi, without any explanation. On 9 September 2022, upon a repeated attempt to return, he was allowed to enter the country.

On 26 September 2022, Mr. Smirnov applied for a temporary residence permit, on the grounds of owning a house in Georgia. On 6 October 2022, his residence permit request was granted by the Public Service Development Agency under the Ministry of Justice of Georgia. However, on 12 October 2022 it was revoked based on the decision of the Security Service of Georgia that he “represented a threat to national security.” The Security Service of Georgia allegedly refused to provide Mr. Smirnov and his lawyer with any reasons for treating him as a “threat to national security,” claiming that it was a State secret. Mr. Smirnov appealed the decision on the residence permit revocation with the Tbilisi City Court, but the court dismissed his appeal on 16 January 2023.

In March 2023, Ms. Gryaznova travelled to Turkey for a human rights defenders’ conference. Upon her return, on 28 March 2023, she was refused entry to Georgia at the border at the Tbilisi Airport and deported to Turkey under the following circumstances.

At around 4.50 p.m., a police officer with badge no. 3743, carrying out border control, reviewed her passport, a letter from the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders confirming her human rights defender’s status, and documents confirming her ownership of property and her registration as an individual entrepreneur in Georgia, photographed the passport and the letter and sent them to someone by phone. At 4.56 p.m., other police officer allegedly came to passport control, took Mr. Gryaznova’s documents, and asked her to wait outside of a passenger line.

At around 5.10 p.m., the third police officer who did not wear a badge approached Ms. Gryaznova to ask some questions about her work, her life in Georgia, her reasons for being there, and when she was going to leave. He allegedly came back with additional questions several times, periodically leaving the desk to join a plainclothes officer without a badge, as they were allegedly messaging and calling someone. At around 5.30 p.m., he allegedly informed Ms. Gryaznova that she was refused entry and would be deported. He allegedly refused to provide any reasons or documents about the decision.

At around 5.50 p.m., Ms. Gryaznova was allegedly escorted to the plane by the third officer and two other officers and several minutes later, she was deported to Istanbul. She has since then not tried to return to Georgia to her home and partner.

Ms. Dariana Gryaznova’s and Mr. Evgenii Smirnov’s case appears to be a part of a broader trend affecting Russian human rights defenders, journalists, and activists entering Georgia, including those who had to flee Russia and relocated to Georgia for safety months earlier. According to the information received, refusals of entry and deportations without an explanation, allegedly related to the affected persons’ activity, have been taking place since summer 2021 and have become more frequent since 2022.


In the communication, we express concern at the allegations that Ms. Dariana Gryaznova and Mr. Evgenii Smirnov were not provided with the information and documents concerning their refusals of entry to Georgia and reasons for Mr. Evgenii Smirnov’s recognition as a “threat to national security of Georgia,” which allegedly led to the revocation of his residence permit. In view of this, we are also concerned at the allegations that all these decisions may be related to Ms. Dariana Gryaznova’s and Mr. Evgenii Smirnov’s legitimate peaceful human rights work, including their work as human rights lawyers. We are also seriously concerned with allegations that their case is representative of a broader trend targeting Russian human rights defenders, journalists, and activists entering Georgia.


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