A man wearing headphones talks in front of a laptop.
A Moscow court ordered the arrest in absentia of exiled journalist Dmitry Kolezev on June 5, 2024. Kolezev was accused of distributing false information about Russian armed forces in social media posts about the massacre in the Ukrainian city of Bucha. (Screenshot: Колезев/YouTube)

Moscow court orders arrest in absentia of exiled journalist, 2 others face administrative charges

Berlin, June 7, 2024—The Committee to Protect Journalists decries Russian authorities’ crackdown on independent media outlets and exiled journalists, and urges them to cease their harassment immediately.

On Wednesday, June 5, the Basmanny district court in the capital, Moscow, ordered the arrest in absentia of exiled journalist Dmitry Kolezev, saying that he distributed false information about Russian armed forces in unspecified social media posts in April 2022 about the massacre in the Ukrainian city of Bucha.

“These publications were absolutely true, as confirmed by numerous international investigations, but it doesn’t matter to the [Russian] Investigative Committee,” Kolezev, the former editor-in-chief of the independent media platform Republic and founder of the Yekaterinburg-based online outlet It’s My City,  said in a Wednesday Instagram post. 

Kolezev has been placed on an international wanted list and, upon extradition to Russia or being detained within the country, faces two months of detention, according to the press service of the Moscow courts. If convicted, he faces up to 10 years imprisonment under the criminal code.

“By relentlessly targeting exiled journalists, Russian authorities demonstrate their nonstop commitment to silencing independent voices,” said CPJ Program Director Carlos Martinez de la Serna, from New York. “The arrest warrant issued against journalist Dmitry Kolezev and the ongoing harassment of other exiled journalists must be halted immediately.”

Kolezev was designated a “foreign agent” and added to the federal wanted list in November 2022.

Republic, was labeled a “foreign agent” in October 2021 until the publication voluntarily relinquished its status as a media outlet registered with Russian state media regulator Roskomnadzor in September 2022. 

In May 2024, Republic was once again labeled a foreign agent.

Russian authorities took the following actions against journalists, at least two of them in exile, this week:

  • The Russian financial intelligence agency Rosfinmonitoring added Anna Loiko, an exiled journalist and reporter with independent news outlet SOTA, to its list of “terrorists and extremists” on May 29.

A Moscow court ordered Loiko’s arrest in absentia on charges of “justifying terrorism” and put her on the wanted list in November 2023. If convicted, she faces up to seven years in prison under the criminal code

Loiko told CPJ the case stems from her October 2020 and January 2021 articles detailing legal proceedings against alleged members of the Lebanon-based Islamist group Hizb ut-Tahrir, which Russia deems a terrorist organization.

SOTA reported that authorities searched Anna Loiko’s flat in Moscow, although nothing was taken, and the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation (SKR) questioned her mother in October 2023.  

“It was so long ago that, honestly, when I found out about the search in my apartment, I did not immediately think that it had something to do with my articles about the Hizb ut-Tahrir,” Loiko told CPJ. “I wrote them at the beginning of my career, and after such a long time, and even in emigration, I didn’t think about them at all, but it turned out that the investigators did.” 

The prosecutor general’s office listed DOXA as an “undesirable organization” in January 2024. 

On January 26, 2023, the Russian prosecutor general’s office declared Meduza “undesirable,” effectively banning it and stating that its activities “pose a threat to the foundations of the Russian Federation’s constitutional order and national security.”

  • On Tuesday, the Basmanny district court in Moscow initiated a similar proceeding against Andrey Soldatov, the editor-in-chief of Agentura.ru, a news website covering Russian state surveillance. Soldatov told independent news outlet Mediazona that he believes the case is connected to a comment he gave Meduza. A court hearing has been scheduled for June 17.

CPJ’s emailed requests for comment to Rosfinmonitoring and Moscow’s Basmanny and Ostankinsky district courts did not receive any replies.