Russian journalist Igor Kuznetsov was recently detained for allegedly organizing protests.
Igor Kuznetsov is one of three Russian journalists from the independent news website RusNews who are in jail. He received a suspended sentence on March 20, but remains in detention over a second court case. (Photo: RusNews/YouTube)

Russian journalist Igor Kuznetsov given 3-year suspended sentence, remains behind bars

New York, March 22, 2024—The Committee to Protect Journalists on Friday condemned the three-year suspended sentence issued to Russian journalist Igor Kuznetsov for participating in an extremist group and called on authorities to release him immediately and drop all charges against him.

On Wednesday, a court in the Russian capital, Moscow, gave Kuznetsov, a reporter with the independent news website RusNews who has been in detention since September 2021, a suspended sentence, rather than the four-and-a-half-year prison sentence that prosecutors had requested, according to media reports and his outlet.

But the journalist will remain behind bars because he is also being tried for allegedly inciting mass disturbances in group chats on Telegram, for which a prosecutor in December requested a nine-year jail sentence, those sources said.

“Russian authorities have held journalist Igor Kuznetsov for over two-and-a-half-years on a range of spurious charges aimed at silencing him and his outlet. Correspondents of RusNews are some of the last remaining independent reporters in President Vladimir Putin’s Russia,” said Gulnoza Said, CPJ’s Europe and Central Asia program coordinator. “Authorities should drop all the charges against Kuznetsov, release him immediately, and stop jailing independent voices.”

The court also banned Kuznetsov from managing websites, working in media, and organizing mass and public events for four years, and sentenced him to one year of restricted freedom, those sources said.

Restriction of freedom involves not being allowed to leave home at certain times of day, not visiting certain places, not participating in certain activities, not leaving the territory of a specific municipality, and not changing your place of residence.

Russian authorities accused Kuznetsov of being connected to the Left Resistance, an anti-war movement created in 2017, which authorities have labeled as extremist. RusNews chief editor Sergey Aynbinder told CPJ that Kuznetsov denied being an “extremist.”

In addition to Kuznetsov, Russia has jailed two other RusNews journalists.

Maria Ponomarenko was given a six-year sentence in 2023 for spreading “fake” information about the Russian army and could face an additional five years in jail in a second criminal case where she is being tried on allegations of using violence against prison staff.

In March, Roman Ivanov was sentenced to seven years in jail on the same charge of spreading fake information about the army.

Russia was the world’s fourth worst jailer of journalists—with 22 behind bars, including Kuznetsov, Ponomarenko, and Ivanov—on December 1, 2023, when CPJ conducted its latest annual prison census.

CPJ’s email to Moscow’s Meshchansky District Court requesting comment on Kuznetsov’s sentence did not receive any response.

Editor’s note: The spelling of the Meshchansky District Court has been corrected in the last paragraph.