New York, November 3, 2017–The editor-in-chief and owner of the independent, Kaliningrad-based weekly Novye Kolyosa, Igor Rudnikov, was allegedly beaten while in custody of Russia’s security service (FSB) and faces criminal prosecution, according to media reports and a staff member who spoke with CPJ on condition of anonymity for safety concerns. On the night of November 1, the FSB also raided the Novye Kolyosa office, according to the media reports.
“We call on Russian authorities to immediately release Igor Rudnikov and drop all charges against him,” Nina Ognianova, CPJ’s Europe and Central Asia Program Coordinator, said. “The federal authorities must promptly investigate Rudnikov’s beating in custody and bring those responsible to justice.”
The Novye Kolyosa staff member said Rudnikov was first detained at his house and brought to the newsroom in handcuffs with his hand swollen. Nearly a dozen officers in heavy armor and facemasks raided the newsroom and conducted a search that lasted for over five hours, the staffer said. According to his colleague, Rudnikov was interrogated in a room separate from the rest of the staff. Rudnikov was then hospitalized with a concussion, a broken arm, and a broken rib, according to press reports and the same staff member.
According to the staff member, at around 2 a.m. on November 2, Rudnikov was taken in his underwear from his hospital bed to his home where security forces conducted further searches. The law enforcement also searched his mother’s house.
Officers then placed Rudnikov in a Kaliningrad FSB detention center, according to the newspaper staff member.
Today, Rudnikov appeared at a local court to hear charges against him. According to news reports and the newspaper staff member, the authorities charged Rudnikov with accepting a bribe from Viktor Ledenyov, head of the Kaliningrad branch of Russia’s investigative committee.
The judge denied the defense’s request to place Rudnikov, who appeared with a cast on his right hand, under house arrest to receive medical treatment, and ruled that the suspect should remain in custody until January 1, 2018 pending investigation, media reported.
Rudnikov’s colleague told CPJ they believe the charges are in retaliation for Novye Kolyosa‘s series of reports about a luxury villa in Kaliningrad allegedly belonging to Ledenyov .
A report from the Russian news agency Interfax stated that neither the FSB nor the Investigative Committee gave any comment on the case, including the beating.