Russia’s FSB seeks to arrest journalist who worked with Bellingcat

Russian authorities are seeking to detain a prominent investigative journalist, in another sign of increased government pressure on independent media, opposition supporters and human rights activists.

Roman Dobrokhotov, the founder and editor-in-chief of the Insider news site is being investigated on charges of “illegally” crossing the border, and has been placed on a wanted list as part of the investigation, the Federal Security Service (FSB) said on Thursday.

The Insider has worked with the investigative group Bellingcat on high-profile cases such as the nerve agent poisonings of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny.

The FSB said that a criminal case had been launched against Dobrokhotov for carrying out an “illegal” border crossing in August.

In a statement carried by Russian news agencies, the domestic intelligence agency said it intended to add him to a wanted list with the “aim of arresting and prosecuting him”. The charges carry a maximum sentence of two years in prison.

The FSB said Dobrokhotov crossed Russia’s border into Ukraine “secretly, on foot … bypassing established checkpoints”.

On Thursday morning, searches were conducted at Dobrokhotov’s flat and at his parents’ home, the journalist’s lawyer, Yulia Kuznetsova, told the Insider. Their phones, computers and other devices were taken away, the Insider reported.

Dobrokhotov confirmed the searches and the criminal investigation on Twitter.

The Insider said that Dobrokhotov’s wife and his father, a professor at Moscow’s Higher School of Economics, were both taken in for questioning.

In July, the Insider was labelled a foreign agent, a description that forces entities to disclose their sources of funding and mark all their publications with a special tag.

Later the same month, police raided Dobrokhotov’s home and took him in for questioning. They took away his phone, computer and passport, his lawyer said at the time.

Dobrokhotov was questioned as a witness in a libel case that the Insider says was initiated by a Dutch blogger, whom the outlet had linked to Russia’s military intelligence.

Kremlin critics say that during his two decades in power, Vladimir Putin has silenced most dissidents and muzzled the media.

The few opposition and independent media outlets still operating in Russia are under huge pressure, opponents say.


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