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Russian federal agents arrest at least half a dozen Telegram channel administrators involved in anti-corruption reporting

Source: Meduza

In the past week, federal agents in Russia have arrested the administrators of at least half a dozen popular Telegram channels, according to multiple reports. On Wednesday, a court in Moscow jailed three of these people: journalist Alexandra Bayazitova, media expert Olga Arkharova, and publicist Inna Churilova. Only Bayazitova has maintained her innocence against charges that she extorted money from Promsvyazbank. (Case records identify the victim of the alleged extortion as Alexander Ushakov, a senior manager at the state-owned bank.)

Speaking in court during her arraignment, Bayazitova (who has diabetes and struggles with mobility) said all she did was publish evidence that Promsvyazbank executives are involved in embezzling federal money allocated to Russia’s defense industry.

Alexandra Bayazitova speaks during her arraignment. She will remain in jail for at least another two months, pending trial. “I wrote a post about Promsvyazbank, about our bad situation in Ukraine, because people at the state defense bank are robbing state procurements,” Bayazitova told the court. “The dad of Promsvyazbank’s board chairman, if you recall, was the Foreign Intelligence Service director. In fact, he basically gutted the agency, otherwise the operation in Ukraine would have been done literally in two weeks, like Mr. Putin planned.”

Journalists reported earlier in the week that the authorities had arrested numerous Telegram channel administrators on charges of demanding money from Rostec’s press service in exchange for not publishing negative claims about the company. Other reports claimed that the suspects would face charges for “promoting a pro-Ukrainian agenda and spreading false information to destabilize the situation in Russia.”

Also on Wednesday, a different district court in Moscow jailed another three Telegram administrators on large-scale fraud charges. These suspects — all managers at the Project Scanner channel — reportedly work for the Narodnye Novosti publishing house, which belongs to a media group owned by catering, propaganda, and mercenary tycoon Evgeny Prigozhin. (Prigozhin denies any connection to the arrests.)