Russian journalist abruptly freed amid criticism

Nellie Chapman
June 13, 2019

"I will continue the work that I was doing and carry out investigations because I need to justify the trust in me that those who have supported me have shown", he said.

Golunov is a reporter with independent media outlet Meduza, which is based in EU-member Latvia.

Golunov, who maintained his innocence and claimed to be the victim of a set-up, was placed under house arrest on 8 June.

Interior Minister Vladimir Kolokoltsev said in a statement on Tuesday that the case against Mr Golunov had been dropped because there was not enough evidence to prosecute him.

In act of journalistic solidarity not seen for at least 15 years, RBC and two other major papers, Kommersant and Vedomosti, published identical front pages on Monday with the headline "I am/We are Ivan Golunov", and called for a transparent investigation of his case.

But the case struck a nerve in Russian Federation as emblematic of the lawlessness and corruption in the country's law enforcement and officials that has flourished under Putin.

Journalists and activists reacted with joy as thousands of supporters planned to rally in Moscow after days of smaller demonstrations.

"I am happy, I'm crying".

"It's great news. It is an inspiring and motivating example of what a simple solidarity can achieve for people who are persecuted", Celebrated the opponent Alexéi Navalni, object of multiple judicial denunciations in the last years.

Mr Kolokoltsev said police officers involved in detaining Mr Golunov, 36, were being suspended as an investigation was launched.

He added that he hopes the police will stop trying to frame innocent people, adding: "I hope it will not happen to anyone else in our country". Charges will be dropped and Golunov will be freed from house arrest, he added.

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"This is a very surprising turnaround of events", said Al Jazeera's Step Vaessen, reporting from Moscow. He was detained by police on Thursday last week and accused of serious drug offences which he flatly denied.

Forensic tests found no proof that the journalist, Ivan Golunov, committed drug-related crimes, Kolokoltsev said.

After Golunov's arrest, hundreds protested outside a court and the Moscow police headquarters.

Before the police backed down, almost 25,000 people had signed up to a Facebook page expressing their intention to take part in a protest march on Wednesday in solidarity with Mr. Golunov.

Reporters Without Borders, meanwhile, hailed the "historic mobilisation of the Russian civil society". "Now folks who tried to plan him up want to be judged".

"We are gratified that the authorities has listened to the americans. We have a lot of hard work ahead of us if we are to ensure that what happened here will never happen again to anybody".

In a show of rare solidarity, Russia's three major newspapers on Monday put out almost identical front pages to support the detained journalist.

Even some staunchly pro-Kremlin television journalists expressed support for the independent reporter. The journalist's arrest last Thursday shocked many in Russian Federation, especially as he was accused of being involved in a drug ring.

"Ivan's freedom is a great reason to celebrate", Kolpakov and other prominent journalists said on Meduza's website.

During his two decades in power, Putin has silenced most of his critics and sought to muzzle the media. Moreover, accusations of arbitrarily charging a dissident journalist would not cast Russian Federation in a favorable light just as the country is set to rejoin the Council of Europe, the continent's main human rights body.

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