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Russia Issues Arrest Warrant For Investigative Journalist


Roman Dobrokhotov leaves a police station in Moscow on July 28.
Roman Dobrokhotov leaves a police station in Moscow on July 28.

MOSCOW -- Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB) has said an arrest warrant has been issued for prominent investigative journalist Roman Dobrokhotov, chief editor of the investigative website The Insider, which was recently added to the country's controversial registry of "foreign agents."

According to the FSB’s September 30 statement, Dobrokhotov is accused of illegally crossing the border into Ukraine in August “bypassing the established checkpoints.” The statement added that Dobrokhotov faces criminal prosecution and up to two years in prison.

Earlier in the day, The Insider reported that FSB officers searched Dobrokhotov’s Moscow apartment and that of his parents, which is located next door.

Dobrokhotov's lawyer, Yulia Kuznetsova, told The Insider that the searches were conducted as part of an investigation into "illegal border crossing."

Dobrokhotov tweeted that the officers confiscated his parents' computers and telephones and were going to take them in for questioning with regard to the case.

In July, just days after The Insider website was labeled a "foreign agent," police searched the apartments of Dobrokhotov and his parents.

Dobrokhotov's passport was confiscated by police, but he still managed to leave the country and is currently abroad. His wife and children remain in Moscow.

Police said at the time that the searches were part of an investigation that had been launched at the request of Dutch journalist Max van der Werff, who accused The Insider of libel.

Van der Werff's lawyer, Stalina Gurevich, said at the time that her client was suing Dobrokhotov, accusing him of falsely reporting that the Dutch journalist had links to Russia's GRU military-intelligence agency.

Van der Werff is known for articles rejecting international investigators' conclusions that Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 was shot down in 2014 by a Russian-made Buk surface-to-air missile fired from territory controlled by Moscow-backed separatists in the east of Ukraine, killing all 298 passengers and crew.

The Insider is an investigative website registered in Latvia and well-known for its cooperation with the Bellingcat group, with which it has conducted a series of high-profile investigations, including reports about the Russian secret services' activities abroad and last year's poisoning with a nerve agent of Russian opposition leader and outspoken Kremlin critic Aleksei Navalny.

Russia's so-called "foreign agent" legislation was adopted in 2012 and has been modified repeatedly.

It requires nongovernmental organizations that receive foreign assistance, and that the government deems to be engaged in political activity to be registered, to identify themselves as "foreign agents," and to submit to audits. Later modifications of the law targeted foreign-funded media, including RFE/RL's Russian Service, six other RFE/RL Russian-language news services, and Current Time.

The Russian state media monitor Roskomnadzor last year adopted rules requiring listed media to mark all written materials with a lengthy notice in large text, all radio materials with an audio statement, and all video materials with a 15-second text declaration.

The agency has prepared hundreds of complaints against RFE/RL's services. When they go through the court system, the total fines levied could reach nearly $1 million.

RFE/RL has called the fines "a state-sponsored campaign of coercion and intimidation," while the U.S. State Department has described them as "intolerable."

Human Rights Watch has described the "foreign agent" legislation as "restrictive" and intended "to demonize independent groups."

With reporting by Insider and Dozhd

RFE/RL has been declared an "undesirable organization" by the Russian government.

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