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Russian media conglomerate co-founder takes leave of absence following rape and assault allegations

On January 3, Yekaterina Fedorova, a journalist for the Radio Europe/Radio Free Liberty project Sibir.Realii, alleged in a Facebook post that Aleksey Migunov physically and sexually assaulted her in her home on October 13, 2018. Migunov is a co-founder of PrimaMedia, a conglomerate of news agencies covering several eastern and southern Russian regions. He is currently on voluntary leave.

According to Fedorova, she and Migunov met in 2015, worked together for a period of time, and maintained contact afterward. On October 13, she wrote, they arranged to meet in a café, but Migunov arrived drunk and ordered additional alcoholic beverages for both of them despite Fedorova’s opposition. She alleged that Migunov then insisted on walking her to her apartment, began hitting and biting her, and forced himself on her. Fedorova wrote that she photographed her face but did not turn to the police, saying she feared additional humiliation and suspected that Migunov “could cover up anything.” She described injuries on her skin and ears and concluded, “I am not OK.”

On January 6, Migunov responded to the allegations. He negated Fedorova’s version of events unequivocally, writing that “there was no violence and no rape whatsoever.” Migunov wrote that offering details regarding his account of that evening would be contrary to his upbringing but accused Fedorova of “manipulations of facts” and “numerous lies” stemming from personal conflicts of interest. He also reported receiving messages from men who had “paid their way out” after similar encounters with Fedorova, who mentioned one past instance of harassment in her own post.

On January 7, Migunov announced that he would temporarily step back from his work at PrimaMedia and several other organizations. He wrote that he is preparing to take legal action while attempting to restrict the impact of the allegations on his family. “Naturally,” he added, “measures concerning my legal rights are being prepared in relation to the media organizations and websites that have spread unsubstantiated and socially dangerous allegations.” Fedorova has also continued to report that she is facing online threats and grappling with psychological trauma.

Conversations about sexual harassment and assault in the former Soviet Union have expanded greatly since 2016. In that year, the hashtag #ЯНеБоюсьСказати or #ЯНеБоюсьСказать (#ImNotAfraidToSayIt) went viral on social media thanks to Ukrainian activist Anastasiya Melnychenko. Multiple journalists came forward in the following year to describe harassment at the hands of Leonid Slutsky, the chairman of the State Duma’s International Affairs Committee. Meduza’s own former chief editor, Ivan Kolpakov, recently resigned after a harassment scandal.