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Russian journalist charged with ‘justifying terrorism’ for a single phrase she used on the air

Svetlana Prokopyeva / Facebook

Officials searched the residence of Radio Liberty correspondent Svetlana Prokopyeva on February 6. The searches followed charges brought under Article 205 of Russia’s criminal code: prosecutors accused Prokopyeva of “justifying terrorism.” Those charges stemmed from a statement the journalist made on the radio station Echo of Moscow in Pskov regarding an October 2018 attack on the local Federal Security Service (FSB) headquarters in the northern city of Arkhangelsk. Prokopyeva said “the government itself raised” a generation of citizens that decided to struggle against it. Article 205 carries a fine of up to one million rubles ($15,160) or a prison sentence of up to seven years.

Prokopyeva said she was made to sign a nondisclosure agreement. “Seven people total came into my little apartment from the ‘60s, including four SOBR [Special Rapid Response Unit] people,” the journalist told Meduza. “I guess they were expecting me to put up some kind of desperate resistance. They didn’t commit any acts of aggression; they said they were looking for ‘devices that could be used to commit a crime.’” Prokopyeva said officers confiscated a computer, flash drives, a microphone, a telephone, and various papers during the search. She was summoned for additional questioning on the evening of February 7.

Prokopyeva’s colleagues say officials are putting pressure on her because of local FSB politics. “The head of our local FSB branch, Alexey Ivanovich Kalyan, is on rotation this year. At the end of the year, he will either get promoted or have to retire,” said Denis Kamalyagin, the editor-in-chief of Pskov Governate, a newspaper Prokopyeva previously led. He added, “This isn’t a federal trend. It’s just the local FSB freaking out.” Kamalyagin said the same regional branch has brought forward three other criminal cases in the last month and a half: one against Pskov Oblast’s vice governor, one against activists from the opposition organization Open Russia, and one against the director of the Moglino commercial park.

Ilya Zhegulev

Translation by Hilah Kohen