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Russia: Release journalists detained over critical coverage of Ukraine invasion

Responding to the news that Russian authorities have detained an editor-in-chief and a founder of local newspaper from the Russian Republics of Altay and Khakassia after they published content critical of the war in Ukraine, Marie Struthers, Amnesty International’s Director for Eastern Europe and Central Asia, said:

“The Russian authorities’ crackdown on independent media is escalating at breakneck speed. Evidently unsatisfied with merely blocking critical news sites or forcing reporters into exile, the Kremlin now seeks to incarcerate journalists who report on anti-war protests or Russian soldiers who refuse to fight in Ukraine.

Evidently unsatisfied with merely blocking critical news sites or forcing reporters into exile, the Kremlin now seeks to incarcerate journalists who report on anti-war protests or Russian soldiers who refuse to fight in Ukraine

Marie Struthers, Amnesty International’s Director for Eastern Europe and Central Asia

“Mikhail Afanasyev and Sergei Mikhaylov, along with all others arrested merely for reporting on the Russian army, must be immediately and unconditionally released. We call on the Russian authorities to repeal the notorious Article 207.3 of the Criminal Code and end their crackdown on freedom of expression and press freedom.”

Background

On 13 April, Russian security forces arrested Mikhail Afanasyev, the editor-in-chief of online journal Novy Fokus, in Abakan, Republic of Khakassia. The same day, police arrested Sergei Mikhaylov, the founder of LIStok, a newspaper based in Gorno-Altaysk, Republic of Altay. Mikhaylov was arrested in Moscow before being transferred back to Altay, where a court will decide on his pre-trial detention.

Both are accused of disseminating “knowingly false information about the Russian Armed Forces”. If convicted, they could be imprisoned for up to 10 years.  

On 4 April, Novy Fokus reported that 11 riot police from Khakassia had refused to go to war in Ukraine. On 13 April, Russian authorities arrested Afanasyev and searched his home, seizing his computers and other digital equipment.

On 14 April, LIStok was ordered to pay 300,000 rubles — around $4,000 — for “calling for sanctions against Russia”. On the day of Mikhaylov’s arrest, the authorities also searched LIStok’s offices and the home of its editor-in-chief. The newspaper’s website has been blocked since March for promoting anti-war events.

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