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Russia's FSB sues independent newspaper for reporting torture allegations, demands retraction

The Federal Security Service (FSB) has filed a defamation lawsuit against the independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta and correspondent Ivan Zhilin, demanding the retraction of two articles published in January about the alleged torture of a man detained in Magnitogorsk after an explosion killed 39 people last December.

The lawsuit claims that Novaya Gazeta’s reporting “is untrue” and “damages the FSB’s professional reputation.” In January, following the apartment building blast, the authorities detained a Kyrgyz citizen named Khudnidin Zainabidinov. His wife and multiple human rights advocates told Zhilin that he was tortured in FSB custody. A few days after Novaya Gazeta’s first report, however, Chelyabinsk state attorney Vitaly Lopin claimed that Zainabidinov and his wife had recanted these allegations.

“The content and semantic tenor of [Novaya Gazeta’s] statements about the use of torture and violence against a citizen by a state agency, which serves as a mechanism for the protection of individual rights, freedoms, and dignity, undeniably creates a negative view of this federal agency for a wide range of readers,” the FSB argues in its lawsuit. The agency demands that the newspaper delete both articles and publish a retraction.

Novaya Gazeta’s editors say they are still reviewing the case materials. A preliminary hearing is scheduled to take place next week on March 21.

Federal investigators previously launched a preliminary inquiry into reports that Khudnidin Zainabidinov was tortured after his arrest. In 2018, Russian journalists documented more than a dozen cases of torture carried out by FSB agents.