Russian police reportedly launch felony case against journalist for working with banned ‘undesirable’ organization
Police have reportedly opened a felony criminal case against Alexander Savelyev, a journalist who works for the MBKh Media outlet, according to Alexey Pryanishnikov, the coordinator of the Open Russia movement’s human rights project.
This marks the latest escalation in the authorities’ crackdown on public groups connected to the former oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky, following the government’s decision to ban Open Russia by designating it as an “undesirable organization.” Under a recently adopted federal law, working with such organizations risks fines as high as 500,000 rubles ($7,895), up to 360 hours of community service, up to five years of forced labor, or even between two and six years in prison.
“The police raided the homes of [Krasnodar] activists Leonid and Marina Zaprudin. When [the officers] read out the search warrant, they said they were informed that it was part of a case brought against Savelyev,” Pryanishnikov announced on July 30. (Marina Zaprudina is a former Open Russia activist who is now under investigation for illegal drug possession. Liya Milushkina, Open Russia’s coordinator in Pskov, faces similar charges.)
According to MBKh Media, Alexander Savelyev has stopped answering his telephone, and the police raided his parents’ apartment, according to activist Alina Lisovets.
Russian law enforcement are currently prosecuting three other activists for collaborating with the Open Russia movement: Yana Anatonova in Krasnodar, Maxim Vernikov in Yekaterinburg, and Anatastia Shevchenko in Rostov-on-Don. Police initially targeted Open Russia activists with misdemeanor cases, and later escalated their campaign to felony charges, after the Justice Ministry outlawed the Britain-registered entity “Open Russia Civic Movement” in 2017. At the time, the Attorney General’s Office promised that the decision would not affect the Russia-based Open Russia movement.
Like the Open Russia movement, the website MBKh Media is linked to former oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky, who was convicted and imprisoned twice in Russia, before he was freed in 2013, when he left the country permanently.