New York, February 13, 2019--Igor Rudnikov, editor-in-chief and owner of the independent Kaliningrad-based weekly Novye Kolyosa, is due to appear in court on extortion charges in St. Petersburg tomorrow, according to local news reports. Rudnikov, who faces up to 15 years in prison if convicted, has been in pre-trial detention since his arrest on November 1, 2017, according to CPJ research. He was hospitalized for concussion and a broken arm and rib after being questioned by security service agents, a member of his staff told CPJ at the time.
The print edition of Novye Kolyosa ceased in April after carriers and a printing company refused to produce and distribute copies, and in December the Russian media regulator Roskomnadzor filed a lawsuit to have Novye Kolyosa liquidated for allegedly disclosing information concerning the ongoing investigation, according to news reports.
"Igor Rudnikov has suffered horrendous beatings and has been held in pre-trial detention on bogus charges for well over a year. He should be released immediately," said CPJ Europe and Central Asia Program Coordinator Gulnoza Said. "Russian authorities should drop the charges against Rudnikov and respect freedom of the press. It can begin by ceasing with the threats of closure of Novye Kolyosa."
One of Rudnikov's colleagues told CPJ in 2017 they believe the charge relates to a series of reports published in Novye Kolyosa earlier that year about a luxury villa allegedly belonging to Viktor Ledenyov, head of the Kaliningrad branch of Russia's investigative committee.