Russian journalist Natalia Zubkova is in hiding after being attacked and threatened. (Photo: Zubkova family archive)

Russian journalist Natalia Zubkova in hiding following attack, death threats

New York, March 3, 2021 – Russian authorities should immediately investigate the attack on journalist Natalia Zubkova, and ensure that the perpetrator is held accountable and the journalist can work safely, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.

In the evening of February 25, an unidentified hooded man in dark clothes attacked and threatened Zubkova, the chief editor and founder of the independent news website Novosti Kiselyovska, outside her home in southwestern Siberian city of Kiselyovsk, according to news reports and Zubkova, who spoke with CPJ in a phone interview.

The man approached the journalist from behind, grabbed her by the hood of her coat, and pushed her to her knees in the snow, Zubkova told CPJ. While holding her down, the man threatened to kill and sexually assault her children if she “opened her mouth again,” Zubkova said.

After the attack, Zubkova fled Kiselyovsk to an undisclosed location, she told CPJ.

“Russian authorities should immediately investigate the attack on independent journalist Natalia Zubkova and the threats to her family, and guarantee that she can live and work safely and without fear,” said Gulnoza Said, CPJ’s Europe and Central Asia program coordinator. “Russian law enforcement should ensure that journalists can do their work freely, and take the prosecution of those who attack members of the press seriously.”

Zubkova told CPJ that she believes the threats could be connected to her recent coverage of protests against a local coal mine project, or her reporting on an alleged real estate scheme targeting disabled people.

Previously, in May 2020, Anton Reutov, a lawyer whom Zubkova had alleged was involved in such a scheme, won a defamation case against the journalist and she was fined more than 90,000 rubles (US $1,220), according to news reports and Zubkova.

In August 2020, when Reutov and two bailiffs went to Zubkova’s apartment to confiscate her car toward the payment of that fine, Reutov hit Zubkova in the face, giving her abrasions and scratches, according to the journalist and news reports. Zubkova said she filed a complaint about this case to the police, but the case has since stalled.

Several days after that incident, the journalist received anonymous messages on social media from someone saying they wanted to burn her, and threatening the lives of her children. She said she filed a complaint about the messages with the Investigative Committee of Kiselyovsk, but the committee refused to open an investigation, saying that the messages did not constitute a crime.

Zubkova said she did not know if the recent attack was connected to her dispute with Reutov.

CPJ emailed the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Kemerovsky district and the Investigative Committee of Kiselyovsk, and called Anton Reutov for comment, but did not receive any responses.