MOSCOW — Police in Russia raid the home of the editor-in-chief of an investigative media outlet, who was recently named a “foreign agent”, authorities in a bid to increase pressure on independent media ahead of the country’s September parliamentary election. Latest move by.
Insider news site editor-in-chief Roman Dobrokhotov tweeted Wednesday morning that “the police are knocking on his apartment”, and that his wife reported the raid to the OVD-Info legal aid group before their phone became unavailable.
A lawyer from another legal aid group, Pravozashchita Otkritki, went to Dobrokhotov’s apartment. The group said police seized Dobrokhotov’s international passport, along with cellphones, laptops and tablets, during the raid.
The Insider journalist Sergei Yezhov said Dobrokhotov was to leave Russia on Wednesday.
The Insider said police also raided the home of Dobrokhotov’s parents.
Russian opposition supporters, independent journalists and human rights activists have faced government pressure ahead of September’s vote, widely seen as a key part of President Vladimir Putin’s efforts to consolidate his rule ahead of the 2024 presidential election. is seen in.
The 68-year-old Russian leader, who has been in power for more than two decades, pushed through constitutional changes last year that would potentially allow him to remain in power until 2036.
In recent months, the government has designated several independent media outlets and journalists as “foreign agents” – a label that reflects additional government scrutiny and carries strong derogatory connotations that may discredit recipients.
Targeted outlets include VTimes and Meduza. VTimes later shut down, citing the loss of advertisers, and Meduza launched a crowd-funding campaign after facing the same problem.
Insider was the latest addition to the list. The news outlet, which is registered in Latvia, has worked with the investigative group Bellingcat to investigate high-profile cases such as nerve agent poisoning of former Russian spy Sergei Shripal and Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny.
The Russian Ministry of Justice operates under a law that is used to designate non-governmental organizations, media outlets and individuals who receive foreign funds and engage in politically described activities as foreign agents. are attached.
In comments to the media, Dobrokhotov has stated that the insider will continue to act as usual in accordance with Latvian laws, and will not comply with the requirements of the law of foreign agents.
Russia used the law to impose heavy fines on US-funded broadcaster Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty for failing to identify content produced by foreign agents. The broadcaster has asked the European Court of Human Rights to intervene.
According to The Insider, the searches targeting Dobrokhotov may be related to a slander case launched in April following a complaint by a Dutch blogger.
The insider accused Max van der Werf of working with Russian intelligence and military services to spread false information challenging the findings of an official investigation into the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 in eastern Ukraine.
Pravozashchita Otkritki said Dobrokhotov was a witness in a criminal case against “unknown persons” accused of slander, launched on Dobrokhotov’s account on a tweet containing “misinformation about the downed Boeing MH17”.
Earlier this week Russian authorities blocked nearly 50 websites linked to jailed opposition leader Navalny.
The move comes a month after a Moscow court declared Navalny’s political infrastructure – his foundation to fight corruption and a network of regional offices – as extremist in a ruling that denounced those associated with the organisations. stops him from seeking public office and puts him in long prison. Conditions.
Navalny, Putin’s staunch political foe, was arrested in January on his return from Germany, where he spent five months recovering from a nerve agent poisoning he accused the Kremlin of – charges dismissed by Russian authorities.
In February, the politician was ordered to serve 2½ years in prison for violating the terms of a suspended sentence from a 2014 embezzlement conviction, which he dismissed as politically motivated.
His arrest and imprisonment sparked a wave of mass protests in 11 time zones of Russia, posing a major challenge to the Kremlin. The authorities responded with mass arrests of protesters and criminal investigations against Navalny’s closest aides.
On Wednesday, Lyubov Sobol, a top aide of Navalny and one of the few people on his team, who has not left Russia despite being prosecuted on multiple charges, said Russia’s state communications watchdog Roskomnadzor had removed his account from Twitter. demanded.
Sobol tweeted a screenshot of a letter he received from Twitter informing him of a request by authorities to block his account as “promotion of activities” by Navalny’s organizations that have been declared extremists.
“If not the Kremlin’s frenzy before the election, what is?” Sobol wrote. It was not immediately clear whether the platform would comply with the request.