New York, April 12, 2021 – Russian authorities should return equipment confiscated from journalist Roman Anin, drop their investigation into his work, and allow him to do his job freely, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
On April 9, Federal Security Service (FSB) agents raided the Moscow apartment of Anin, chief editor and founder of the independent investigative news website iStories, and confiscated mobile phones, notebooks, and memory sticks from his home, according to news reports and Anin, who spoke with CPJ in a phone interview.
After the search, which lasted about seven hours, officers took Anin to the headquarters of the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation for questioning; he refused to participate in an interrogation, and was released with a summons to return today, according to Anin and news reports.
Today, Anin returned to the Investigative Committee headquarters and authorities interrogated him about an investigation he published in the independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta in 2016, he told CPJ.
“Russian authorities should immediately stop investigating journalist Roman Anin for his work, return all equipment seized from his home, and ensure that he can work freely and without fear,” said CPJ Europe and Central Asia Program Coordinator Gulnoza Said. “Authorities are clearly attempting to intimidate Anin and silence his investigative reporting; this harassment must stop at once.”
During the raid and subsequent questioning, authorities cited a 2016 complaint filed by Olga Sechina, then the wife of the head of the Russian state-controlled energy company Rosneft, Igor Sechin, who alleged that Anin’s reporting violated her privacy, according to Anin and news reports.
In August 2016, Anin published an investigation in Novaya Gazeta, where he worked at the time, which alleged that Sechina frequently used a multi-million-dollar yacht.
At the time, Igor Sechin won a separate court case against Novaya Gazeta; the article remains on the outlet’s website but is prefaced by a disclaimer stating that the Basmanny District Court had found the information in the article “untrue and discrediting the honor and dignity” of Sechin, according to news reports.
When Anin asked the officers during the April 9 raid why they were investigating the five-year-old case now, they responded that they “were following the instructions” given to them by their supervisors, Anin told CPJ.
During today’s interrogation, an investigator questioned Anin on two main themes: the decision-making process in publishing the Novaya Gazeta article, and how he accessed Olga Sechina’s Instagram, photos from which were used in Anin’s report.
Anin told CPJ he was interrogated as a witness relating to Sechina’s 2016 complaint, but said authorities could decide to make him a suspect. He told CPJ that the investigation appeared to be an attempt to pressure him as a journalist and iStories as a media outlet. He added that he would not allow the investigation to influence his and iStories’ work.
Anin has authored and co-authored many high-profile investigations into alleged corruption among Russian government officials, including an investigation into the offshore companies of a cellist close to President Vladimir Putin; an article linking the deputy director of the FSB to criminal groups; and a joint investigation into alleged corruption schemes within President Putin’s family.
IStories is a member of the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project, an international investigative journalism group.
CPJ emailed the Russian Investigative Committee and Rosneft’s press service for comment, but did not immediately receive any responses. CPJ could not locate contact information for Olga Sechina.