On April 18, Russian authorities raided Fontanka correspondent Ksenia Klochkova's apartment in St. Petersburg. (Photo: St. Petersburg Union of Journalists)
On April 18, Russian authorities raided Fontanka correspondent Ksenia Klochkova's apartment in St. Petersburg. (Photo: St. Petersburg Union of Journalists)

Russian authorities raid journalist Ksenia Klochkova´s apartment

Berlin, April 22, 2024— The raid on Fontanka journalist Ksenia Klochkova’s home underscores the ongoing erosion of Russia’s press freedoms, and authorities should immediately end all harassment and punitive actions against journalists in connection with their work, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Monday.

On April 18, officers with the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation (SKR) in St. Petersburg raided the apartment of Klochkova, a correspondent of independent media outlet Fontanka, as part of a criminal investigation against exiled journalist Andrei Zakharov, who previously worked for Fontanka, according to the outlet and other media reports.

SKR officers seized Klochkova’s equipment, including her phone and notebook, during a near 4-hour search of the apartment, and summoned the journalist for a follow-up questioning.

Aleksandr Gorshkov, Fontanka’s editor-in-chief, told the pro-Kremlin outlet Gazeta.ru that Klochkova is considered a witness in a criminal case against Zakharov, who is charged with failing to comply with the requirements of his “foreign agent” status, which he received in 2021, after which he fled Russia.

“The latest actions targeting independent journalists in Russia and beyond are a testament to the authorities’ relentless crackdown on independent voices,” said Gulnoza Said, CPJ Europe and Central Asia program coordinator, in New York. “Russian authorities should immediately return journalist Ksenia Klochkova´s equipment, cease harassing her and her colleagues, and ensure independent journalists can work without fear of reprisal.”

Zakharov, who left Fontanka in 2016, has contributed to various Russian and international media outlets from exile. In an email to CPJ, Zakharov said that he was Klochkova’s editor at Fontanka “many years ago” and she has “nothing in common with my foreign agent status and my current projects.” He added, “It seems that the [Russian] state used my criminal case as an occasion to prosecute Ksenia.”

Russian authorities have continued to use punitive actions to prosecute journalists working in exile and within the country’s borders.

On April 12, a court in the city of Yaroslavl, northeast of Moscow, fined exiled iStories editor-in-chief Roman Anin 5,000 rubles (US$ 53,5) for participating in an “undesirable organization” after authorities declared the investigative reporting outlet as such in February 2022, the independent news outlet Mediazona reported.

On April 15, authorities launched a criminal investigation against Mariya Menshikova, an exiled journalist with the online student magazine DOXA, also listed as an “undesirable organization,” on charges of “justifying terrorism,” according to the human rights news website OVD-Info. This is the second such criminal case against Menshikova. Officials plan to arrest Menshikova in absentia and place her on an international wanted list, media reported.

CPJ´s recent emails to the Yaroslavl district court and the SKR in St. Petersburg requesting comments did not receive an immediate response.

Russia held at least 22 journalists behind bars when CPJ conducted its 2023 prison census, making it the world’s fourth-worst jailer of journalists that year. CPJ’s prison census documented those imprisoned as of December 1, 2023.