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Police are reportedly investigating several news websites that criticized Roscosmos head Dmitry Rogozin

Police in Moscow have reportedly opened a criminal investigation in response to defamation charges filed by Dmitry Rogozin, the head of the Russian space agency Roscosmos, against Internet publications that have criticized his job performance. Sources in law enforcement told the newspaper Kommersant that Rogozin singled out the websites Rospres.org and Kompromatural.ru.

According to Kommersant, Rogozin originally complained to the Attorney General’s Office. Deputy Attorney General Viktor Grin then referred the matter to a preliminary investigative unit in the Interior Ministry, which decided in late February to launch a formal criminal inquiry. The case is now reportedly being investigated by a special group led by Police Lieutenant Colonel Pavel Milovanov. Sources told Kommersant that officials have already established that the offending websites use equipment and domain names located in the United States and the Netherlands.

The Internet resources named in Rogozin’s complaint published several stories last December that sharply criticized him. For example, one website published an article saying that he spent stolen federal subsidies on a PR campaign to whitewash his own personal reputation, allegedly bribing Lenta.ru majority shareholder Alexander Mamut and chief editor Vladimir Todorov to redact an article about Roscosmos. The Lenta.ru article in question, which accused Roscosmos of wasteful spending and low salaries, was quickly deleted and then republished only 2.5 months later with whole paragraphs removed.

Rogozin is the first Russian space agency chief to resort to a police report against hostile journalists. Late last year, the agency’s spokesman, Vladimir Ustimenko, said in an interview that Roscosmos is being targeted in an “information attack” designed to keep Russia from “regaining its leadership in space” by depicting the agency as a “state corporation bloated on federal money.” Rogozin later endorsed these remarks, blaming the attack on industry competitors and unprofessional reporters.