MOSCOW -- Moscow police have carried out searches of the homes of several senior journalists at the investigative website The Project hours after it published a report questioning how Interior Minister Vladimir Kolokoltsev and his relatives gained their wealth.
The Project said on its Telegram channel on June 29 that police searched the home of Editor In Chief Roman Badanin, as well as that of his colleague, Maria Zholobova.
The website also said that police detained Badanin's deputy, Mikhail Rubin, near Zholobova's home and took him to his parents' apartment, which was also searched.
No reasons were given for the searches.
According to the website, the searches were conducted after The Project had produced an investigative report about Kolokoltsev, his son, and other relatives that alleges the family used connections with Russian officials, businesspeople, and criminal kingpins to enrich themselves.
Kolokoltsev has not commented on the report.
The website published its investigative report on June 29, but the large number of visits to the site made it difficult to access. The report also is available on The Project's YouTube channel.
“The Russian authorities respond to reports of top-level corruption with impressive severity and lightning speed -- except that they persecute those who expose it," said Natalia Zviagina, Amnesty International’s Moscow office director.
Denouncing the searches of the journalists's homes as "another brazen attack on independent media and freedom of expression in Russia," Zviagina called for "an immediate termination of all criminal libel proceedings against journalists and an end to the state harassment of independent Russian media.”
Gulnoza Said, the Committee to Protect Journalists' Europe and Central Asia program coordinator, urged the Russian authorities to drop their investigation into The Project and its journalists, return their equipment, and "stop harassing them for their investigative reporting.”
“Law enforcement’s job should be to protect journalists, not to use the law to try and shut down independent voices,” she said in a statement.
The Project said earlier that its website suffered a massive cyberattack after it published an investigative report about the wealth of the authoritarian ruler of Russia’s North Caucasus region of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov, and his wives.