Russia: Detention and alleged beating of a prominent investigative journalist is deeply alarming

Reacting to the news that prominent Russian investigative journalist Ivan Golunov was detained and charged with drugs possession amid allegations that he was held incommunicado and beaten in custody, Natalia Zviagina, Director of Amnesty International’s Representative Office in Russia, said:

“The circumstances of Ivan Golunov’s detention sound dubious and follow a depressingly familiar pattern. A Russian journalist who has been critical of the authorities is detained by men in plain clothes, denied a meeting with his lawyer, complains of beatings and subsequently looks injured. This case is virtually a ‘cut and paste’ of the recent example of outspoken critic and Chechen human rights defender Oyub Titiyev.

“Everything indicates that the authorities are planting drugs on their targets to shut them up with a jail sentence. Ivan Golunov is a prominent critic and his investigations into government corruption clearly did not go down well with the authorities. It seems he is now paying the price.

Everything indicates that the authorities are planting drugs on their targets to shut them up with a jail sentence

Natalia Zviagina, Director of Amnesty International's Representative Office in Russia

“Golunov’s allegations that he was beaten by police and held incommunicado should be immediately investigated. We will follow this case very closely.”


Ivan Golunov works for the Latvia-based Meduza online news outlet. Over the past few years, he has investigated corruption in government procurement, real estate and funeral services.

He was detained on Thursday 6 June at around 2.30 PM in Moscow though police initially said he was detained on 7 June. According to his lawyer, he was held incommunicado for 12 hours and repeatedly beaten by police.

He is charged with “attempted illegal production, distribution or transfer of drugs” apparently after an unknown substance was found in his bag and at his home. If found guilty, he faces 8 years in prison.