Aleksandr Dorogov

Beats Covered:
Local or Foreign:

Aleksandr Dorogov, co-deputy chief editor of independent investigative website Rosderzhava, is serving a prison sentence of 10 and a half years after being convicted by a Russian court on extortion charges in November 2023. Russian authorities detained him in July 2020 along with Yan Katelevskiy, also co-deputy chief editor, in the village of Mosrentgen, near Moscow. Authorities initially charged the two journalists with extortion and insulting a public official and also charged Dorogov with hooliganism and Katelevskiy with property damage. The charges against Dorogov for hooliganism and “insulting a public official” were later dropped. 

Rosderzhava covers alleged corruption among law enforcement officials, focusing on the Moscow region, according to Dorogov’s lawyer, Konstantin Barkovskiy, who spoke with CPJ in a phone interview, and CPJ’s review of the website. Dorogov also has a YouTube blog, Priklucheniya Dorogova i Ego Druzei (Adventures of Dorogov and His Friends), where he posts reporting and commentary about alleged police misconduct and has about 55,000 followers.  

Officers of the special unit of Russia’s National Guard arrested Dorogov and Katelevskiy in the early hours of July 29, 2020, in Mosrentgen, and took them to a pretrial detention center in Lobnya, near Moscow, according to Barkovskiy and media reports.

During the arrest, the police beat Dorogov, according to Barkovskiy, who added that officers punched, kicked, and pushed his client against the wall, possibly giving him a concussion. Dorogov was taken to the hospital, but was not treated or properly examined, and was just provided with painkillers, according to the lawyer. 

Authorities charged Dorogov with extortion on July 14, 2020. The Tverskoy District Court in Moscow ordered Dorogov to be placed under house arrest on July 28, but failed to inform the journalist or his lawyer of either action, Barkovskiy said.

On August 20, 2020, an investigative unit of the Central Administrative District of the Ministry of Internal Affairs also charged Dorogov with “hooliganism executed by a group of people,” his lawyer said.

The extortion charge stems from a May 21, 2020, complaint filed by a traffic officer, who alleged that he paid Dorogov and Katelevskiy 1.3 million rubles (US$21,000) to stop them from making videos about him, according to Barkovskiy and human-rights news website OVD-Info. The two journalists had previously published YouTube videos on their channels mocking and criticizing the officer.

Dorogov was charged on two counts of extortion — extortion committed by a group of persons and extortion in order to obtain property on a particularly large scale. 

Barkovskiy denied all the charges against his client in court. He told CPJ that the arrest was retaliation for the journalists’ investigative work, in particular their joint investigation into alleged corruption between funeral businesses and senior police officials, published on the YouTube blog Dvizhenie, which investigates corruption and irregularities in the work of the police and had about 625,000 subscribers at the time of the journalists’ arrest. 

Olga Balabanova, Katelevskiy’s lawyer, told CPJ that the police confiscated the two journalists’ electronic equipment after their arrest, and that she suspected that the authorities had gained access to their social network and cloud storage accounts in order to find the journalists’ sources. The lawyer said she based that suspicion partly on the fact that, shortly after the journalists’ arrest, Katelevskiy’s YouTube blog was deleted. The journalists’ friends have since been able to restore it, she said.

Balabanova also told CPJ that, around two weeks before their arrest, Dorogov and Katelevskiy received informal warnings from sources close to the police that they had upset some of the “important people” and would be punished.

In August 2020, Dorogov was transferred from the pretrial detention center in Lobnya to Pretrial Detention Center No. 7 in Yegoryevsk, in the Moscow region, Barkovskiy said. The lawyer told CPJ that Dorogov’s cellmates at the new facility had beaten him in retaliation for his journalistic work, and that, during a visit, the journalist had a limp in one leg, a bruise under his left eye, a large bruise on his left shoulder, and a torn ear, and complained of dizziness and pain in his ribs. Barkovskiy told CPJ that prison officials gave Dorogov minimal first aid after those beatings, and that he suffered from persistent back pain.

The Public Monitoring Commission for the Moscow region, a public body in Russia that monitors the observance of human rights in places of detention, visited Dorogov in detention on August 21, 2020, and documented his injuries following his lawyer’s complaint, Aleksandr Maltsev, a member of the commission, told CPJ via email. Maltsev said the commission filed a report to the Yegoryevsk investigative department of the Russian Investigative Committee, the country’s main federal investigating authority, and to the Yegoryevsk city prosecutor’s office for further investigation.

On September 25, 2020, a Moscow court ordered Dorogov released on house arrest pending trial, but prosecutors appealed the decision, and authorities returned him to jail on October 15, according to Barkovskiy, Dorogov was transferred a detention center in Serpukhov, in the Moscow region, the lawyer said. 

On August 27, 2021, officials in the Serpukhov center grabbed Dorogov and bruised his neck, according to OVD-Info

On October 13, 2021, the Babushkinskiy Court of Moscow gave Dorogov 10 working days to read his file, which is 2,400 pages long, OVD-Info reported.

Rosderzhava chief editor Yevgeny Kurakin told CPJ in October 2023 that Dorogov’s prolonged detention had impacted his psychological state, and that he was no longer brought up to the courtroom for hearings. Kurakin added that Dorogov had recently caught a virus and was complaining about its effect on his health. 

On November 17, a court in Lyubertsy, in the Moscow region, convicted Dorogov on two counts—extortion committed by a group of persons and extortion in order to obtain property on a particularly large scale—and sentenced him to 10 and a half years in prison. The court also convicted Katelevskiy on one count of extortion and sentenced him to nine and a half years in prison. Both journalists will appeal the verdict, Kurakin told CPJ.

In October 2023,

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