Tatyana Khlestunova

Beats Covered:
Local or Foreign:

Russian journalist Tatyana Khlestunova was arrested on November 28, 2020, in the eastern city of Khabarovsk and sentenced to four days in detention for allegedly participating in a protest.

Khlestunova covers politics and social issues in Khabarovsk for as a freelance contributor to Prosto Gazeta, an independent newspaper, according to news reports and Natalia Mikhaylova, the paper’s chief editor, who spoke with CPJ via messaging app. In her reporting and on Instagram, where she has about 1,000 followers, Khlestunova extensively covered protests in Khabarovsk, which began with the arrest of the region’s former governor in July 2020.

On November 28, police officers arrested Khlestunova while she was covering a protest for Prosto Gazeta at Lenin Square in Khabarovsk, even though she showed police her press badge, according to news reports. Police took Khlestunova to the Khabarovsk Police Detention Center No. 1 following her arrest, according to those reports.

On November 30, the Industrialny District Court of Khabarovsk convicted Khlestunova of participating in an unsanctioned event, obstructing traffic, and not wearing a mask in a public place during a rally on November 7, according to those reports. Failure to wear a mask is an offense under a regulation introduced by the Khabarovsk government in August 2020, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The prosecutor relied on oral testimony of a police officer and two written reports from other officers, as well as videos and photos from the rally as evidence that Khlestunova allegedly participated in that rally, according to court documents that CPJ reviewed.

The court sentenced Khlestunova to four days of administrative arrest, according to those news reports. She maintained her innocence, saying that she covered the event as a journalist and did not participate in it, and would appeal her sentence, Mikhaylova said.

Khlestunova engaged in a hunger strike following the decision, according to those reports. 

She has not reported any health concerns in detention, according to Andrey Bityutskiy, a local lawyer who works with journalists and knows the details of Khlestunova’s case, and who spoke with CPJ via messaging app.

СPJ emailed Irina Schegoleva, a representative of the Khabarovsk Ministry of Internal Affairs, for comment, but did not receive any response.