A Sota.Vision article on the June 18 detention of journalist Artyom Krieger. He will remain in custody at least until August 18 on charges of participating in the activities of the “extremist organization” FBK, the Moscow City Courts of General Jurisdiction said. (Screenshot: Sota.Vision)

Moscow court detains journalist Artyom Krieger on extremism charges

Berlin, June 21, 2024—Russian authorities must release journalist Artyom Krieger, drop all charges against him, and stop persecuting the press, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Friday.

On June 18, the Basmanny district court in the capital Moscow placed Krieger, a journalist with the independent news outlet Sota.Vision, under pretrial detention for two months, news reports said.

Krieger will remain in custody at least until August 18 on charges of participating in the activities of the “extremist organization” FBK, the Moscow City Courts of General Jurisdiction said. If found guilty, Krieger could face up to six years in prison, under Russia’s Criminal Code.

Authorities banned the FBK or Anti-Corruption Foundation in 2021. The FBK was  founded by opposition leader Aleksei Navalny who died in an Arctic penal colony in February.

“The arrest of journalist Artyom Krieger is unjust and unacceptable. Russian authorities should immediately free Krieger and dismiss all charges against him,” said Gulnoza Said, CPJ’s Europe and Central Asia program coordinator, in New York. “It is time for Russian authorities to stop using tactics of intimidation to silence critical voices and allow independent journalists to work freely and without fear.”

A video posted on Telegram showed Krieger being pushed to the ground in his underwear during the early morning search of his Moscow apartment on June 18, after which he was taken to the Russian Investigation Committee for questioning.

“They came at six in the morning, put me on the floor … They separated everyone into different rooms, took Artyom and mom to his room …  They conducted a search, checked all electronic devices, took press cards, phone, and storage devices,” Sota.Vision quoted Krieger’s brother, Aleksandr Krieger, as saying.

According to Aleksandr Krieger, the search lasted about four hours and Artyom was presented with a list of names and asked if he recognized any of the individuals, including Navalny.

Sota.Vision rejected the charges against their journalist, stating that Krieger conducted live broadcasts from street protests and courthouses during high-profile trials but he “has never been an activist and was not affiliated with any parties or movements.”

The Russian government listed Sota.Vision as a “foreign agent” in 2023, categorizing it as an entity under foreign influence or receiving external funding and requiring its content to be marked as such.

In 2022, Krieger was detained for eight days for “participating in a demonstration that caused obstruction” while on a livestreaming assignment for Sota.Vision.

Earlier this year, journalists Konstantin Gabov, Sergey Karelin, Olga Komleva, and Sota.Vision’s Antonina Favorskaya were also detained on charges of participating in the FBK. In May, Sota.Vision’s founder Aleksandra Ageyeva was fined 10,000 rubles (US$110) for violating the foreign agents law.

iStories journalists arrested in absentia

Separately, on June 17, Moscow’s Dorogomilovsky district court ordered the arrest in absentia of journalist Ekaterina Fomina and Roman Anin, editor-in-chief of the independent investigative news website iStories, for allegedly spreading “fake news” about the Russian military, news reports said. The Interior Ministry also added the two exiled journalists to its wanted list.

The “fake news” charge was filed against Fomina in January over her 2022 investigation for iStories into allegations of atrocities in Ukraine. If found guilty, she faces up to 10 years in prison under Article 207.3, Part 2 of Russia’s Criminal Code.

Fomina told CPJ that Russian authorities were trying to “defame” her name and wanted her to stop investigating war crimes in Ukraine.

“I can’t be silent when this bloody war is going [on],” said Fomina, who now works for the exiled broadcaster Dozhd TV (TV Rain).

In 2021, Anin and iStories were labelled as foreign agents by the Russian government. In 2022, the outlet was also declared an “undesirable organization,” which means it is banned from operating in Russia, and anyone who participates in or works to organize its activities faces up to six years in prison and administrative fines.

In 2021, Anin’s apartment was searched and he was interrogated in relation to a privacy case filed against him by Olga Sechina, wife of the head of the state-controlled energy company Rosneft. In 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. CPJ was unable to determine current status of this case.

CPJ emailed the Basmanny and Dorogomilovsky district courts requesting comment but received no immediate response.