Update 19 June 2019
In an unprecedented move the Russian government released Ivan Golunov from prison, due to widespread protests. Russian officials do not often meet the demands of protestors or answer the calls of news media, observers note.
Activists say they hope Golunov’s release will be the start of an effort for change.
8 June 2019
A Russian investigative journalist, Ivan Golunov (picture), has been arrested in Moscow and charged with trying to illegally sell drugs. He is a reporter for Latvia-based news site Meduza. On Thursday, he was going to meet a journalist friend. On his way, he was stopped and searched by officers. The officers said that they found the synthetic drug mephedrone in his rucksack, and that they found more drugs and some scales when they searched his flat later. The journalist was officially charged on Saturday morning for possessing and selling drugs.
Police released photos purportedly showing drugs in Mr Golunov’s flat, but they withdrew these later and admitted that the photos were related to another criminal investigation that might be linked to Ivan Golunov’s detention. Meduza news site said that Mr Golunov had received threats in recent months over a story he was working on.
This year he has written about how the relatives of a deputy mayor had earned tens of millions of dollars on city contracts and how a firm that completed a controversial restoration of a famous fountain had a history of corruption.
It was reported that he was preparing a report on an investigation into the multi-billion-dollar corruption schemes of the Moscow mayor, Sergey Sobyanin.
Russian news agency Interfax quoted a Moscow police source as saying that Ivan Golunov complained of feeling unwell and he was sent to the hospital by ambulance. Meduza says he was beaten up by officers both during his arrest and later at a police station.
Mr Golunov’s lawyer, Dmitry Julay, told reporters that the journalist had been denied food and sleep for more than 24 hours.
Natalia Zvyagina, director of Amnesty International’s office in Russia said “Everything indicates that the authorities are planting drugs on their targets to shut them up with a jail sentence.”
You can read one of Ivan Golunov“s investigative reports in English here.
Update 11 June 2019
In an unprecedented move in Russia, three leading newspapers got together and published almost identical front pages on 10 June 2019 in solidarity with arrested investigative journalist Ivan Golunov.
Vedomosti, RBC and Kommersant’s front page headlines all read “I/We Are Ivan Golunov,” and the accompanying stories asked for a detailed investigation into the actions of the police officers involved in Golunov’s detention and said the charges might have been retribution for his professional activities.
RBC’s editor-in-chief Igor Trosnikov told The Moscow Times, “This whole criminal case is ridiculous and it was likely linked to Golunov’s work. For us, it was also important to show that the problem is bigger than just this particular arrest. In Russia, more than 100,000 people a year are jailed on drug charges, which are often falsified. Now it has happened to a famous journalist, Vanya, but it could be anyone tomorrow. Hence the title — we all could be Ivan Golunov.”
Update 12 June 2019
In an unprecedented move, the Russian Interior Ministry on Tuesday said it had dropped a criminal case against Ivan Golunov. He will be released immediately from house arrest and the case against him cancelled because of a lack of evidence.
Interior Minister Vladimir Kolokoltsev told the Tass Russian news agency that he has petitioned for the dismissal of the two police officers who initiated the case against Golunov.