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Saturday 14 May 2022

Belarusian blogger Veronika Belotserkovskaya (file photo)

Russia's Interior Ministry has added a food blogger and magazine founder to its wanted list for allegedly "spreading fake news" about the Russian military.

Veronika Belotserkovskaya, who founded the St. Petersburg glossy magazine and website Sobaka and currently lives in France, commented on May 14 upon learning that she was added to the list by writing: "The first? I have officially been recognized as a decent person!"

Russia's Investigative Committee opened a criminal case in March against the Ukrainian-born Belotserkovskaya, who blogs under the name Belonika, for allegedly spreading fake news about the Russian army.

She was accused of publishing several Instagram posts containing "deliberately false information about the armed forces of the Russian Federation's destruction of cities and civilians in Ukraine, including children, during a special military operation."

Russia's media regulator, Roskomnadzor, has strictly limited access to information about the war in Ukraine launched by Russia on February 24 and directed media to describe events there as a “special military operation” and not a war or an invasion.

She is one of the first to be added to the wanted list under the Criminal Code's article covering "fake news."

Following the opening of the criminal case against her in March, Belotserkovskaya transferred ownership of Sobaka to employees.

Health-care activist Iryna Danylovych (file photo)

The Crimean branch of Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB) has charged health-care activist Iryna Danylovych with the illegal possession of explosives.

The Ukrainian news site Grati reported on May 13 that the 43-year-old Danylovych, whose mysterious disappearance in Crimea on April 29 led to an expansive search by her family and lawyer, was held for a week in the basement of the FSB headquarters in the territorial capital of Simferopol.

The FSB has claimed that Danylovych's glasses case contained 200 grams of explosives, according to Grati, which said the activist was forced to sign a confession under torture.

After being unable to determine his client's whereabouts through Russian authorities for more than a week, lawyer Ayder Azamatov learned on May 11 that Danylovych was being held in the central city of Simferopol.

Danylovych's defense team alleges that FSB agents planted explosives on her, and that the criminal case was falsified.

Born in Belarus when it was part of the U.S.S.R., Danylovych moved to Crimea as a child and studied and gained her nursing degree there. After moving for a short time to Russia, she returned to Crimea shortly before Russia's invasion and subsequent illegal annexation of the Ukrainian peninsula in 2014.

Through her work as a nurse and the head of a doctors' union, Danylovych gained a reputation as an outspoken advocate for medical workers' rights who was not afraid to criticize local medical authorities.

After losing her job as a nurse following her role in demanding promised bonuses for medical staff during the coronavirus pandemic, she continued her advocacy for health workers as a blogger and on social media and contributed as a source to stories about the health-care system in Crimea by media outlets including RFE/RL's Russian Service's regional desk Crimea.Realities.

During a search of her home on April 29, the same day as her disappearance, her family was told that she had been detained for allegedly passing information to a nongovernmental organization.

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"Watchdog" is a blog with a singular mission -- to monitor the latest developments concerning human rights, civil society, and press freedom. We'll pay particular attention to reports concerning countries in RFE/RL's broadcast region.


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