Russian Police Search Homes of Journalists Contributing to RFE/RL Programs

Russian police have searched the homes of several journalists contributing to programs of RFE/RL’s Russian Service and Idel.Realities, an online project that covers news and events in the Volga-Urals region.

On August 17, police in the capital of Russia’s Tatarstan region, Kazan, searched the home of sociologist Iskander Yasaveyev, who is a columnist for the Idel.Realities online project.

Yasaveyev’s lawyer, Rim Sabirov, said police took his client to the Investigative Committee for questioning. According to Sabirov, the law enforcement officers confiscated all the mobile phones belonging to Yasaveyev’s family members.

At this point it remains unclear why exactly Yasaveyev, who is known for his open stance against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, was detained for questioning.

Meanwhile, pro-Kremlin website Tatar-Inform reported on August 17 that police searched the homes of seven other local journalists who work as freelancers or contribute to RFE/RL’s Russian and Tatar-Bashkir services, as well as to Idel.Realities.

Only one of the journalists targeted was identified: Marina Yudkevich, who is also a columnist for Idel.Realities.

According to Tatar-Inform, the searches were linked to the journalists’ articles covering Russia’s ongoing aggression against Ukraine.

President Vladimir Putin in March signed a law that calls for lengthy prison terms for distributing “deliberately false information” about Russian military operations as the Kremlin seeks to control the narrative about its war in Ukraine.

The law carries sentences of up to 10 years in prison for individuals convicted of an offense, while the penalty for the distribution of “deliberately false information” about the Russian military that leads to “serious consequences” is 15 years in prison.

It also makes it illegal “to make calls against the use of Russian troops to protect the interests of Russia” or “for discrediting such use” with a penalty possible of up to three years in prison. The same provision applies to calls for sanctions against Russia.

Multiple websites of RFE/RL, the BBC and other independent media outlets have been blocked over what Russian regulators claim is erroneous reporting.

Separately, on August 17, a contributor in the Urals city of Yekaterinburg to RFE/RL’s Russian Service and several other independent media outlets, Yelena Shukayeva, was sentenced to 14 days in jail on charges of propaganda and public demonstration of extremist groups’ symbols.

Shutayeva’s lawyer, Roman Kachanov, said the charges against his client stemmed from her reposting materials prepared by jailed opposition politician Aleksei Navalny’s team.

Russia last year declared Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation “extremist” and banned the use of any symbols tied to the group as part of a widening crackdown on the opposition.