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Russian Journalist Badanin Starts New Media Outlet To Expose Officials

Roman Badanin gives an interview to Reuters in New York on July 27.
Roman Badanin gives an interview to Reuters in New York on July 27.

Well-known Russian journalist Roman Badanin, who stayed in the United States where he and his family were vacationing when his investigative group Proyekt (The Project) was shut down in Moscow in July, has started a new media outlet aimed at exposing abuses by Russian authorities.

Badanin's U.S.-registered The Project, which published a series of well-researched, unflattering, and sometimes embarrassing investigations into Russia's ruling elite, was closed after the Prosecutor-General's Office in Moscow declared it an "undesirable organization" in mid-July.

On September 6, Badanin announced on Telegram that he had started a new investigative group called Agentstvo (The Agency), a thinly veiled reference to Russia's controversial "foreign agents" law that rights organizations say is used by the Kremlin to stifle civil society and independent media.

The Agency "will be involved in investigations, we will try to irritate Russian authorities, but most importantly make it interesting and important for you. The first such investigation will be issued today," Badanin wrote on Telegram. He gave no further details.

The "undesirable organization" law, first adopted in May 2015, was part of a series of regulations pushed by the Kremlin that squeezed many nonprofit and nongovernmental organizations that received funding from foreign sources -- mainly from Europe and the United States.

Badanin was on holiday abroad with his wife and children when The Project was labelled "undesirable" and the outlet's offices were searched on July 15. He said he decided on the spot not to return to Russia.

The raids were seen as part of a wider crackdown ahead of parliamentary elections on September 19 on media the authorities view as hostile and foreign-backed.

In June, police in Moscow carried out searches at the homes of Badanin and other colleagues from The Project hours after it published a report questioning how Interior Minister Vladimir Kolokoltsev and his relatives acquired their wealth.

Russia's controversial "foreign agents" 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.

In 2017, the Russian government placed RFE/RL's Russian Service, six other RFE/RL Russian-language news services, and Current Time on the list.

Earlier this year, Russian courts began imposing large fines against RFE/RL for failing to mark its articles with a government-prescribed label as required by rules adopted in October 2020. RFE/RL is appealing the fines calling them part of "a state-sponsored campaign of coercion and intimidation."

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