Russian authorities target foreign media journalists in “extremism” cases linked to Navalny’s foundation
Russian authorities target foreign media journalists in “extremism” cases linked to Navalny’s foundation
29 April 2024, 16:37

Konstantin Gabov in court, April 27, 2024. Photo: Moscow court system’s press service

Two more journalists have become defendants in a case involving collaboration with Alexei Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation (ACF, or FBK in Russian), designated as an “extremist organisation” in Russia. Over the past weekend, Sergey Karelin and Konstantin Gabov, who worked for Associated Press and Reuters, were accused of preparing materials for the YouTube channel of Navalny’s supporters. Both journalists were sent to pre-trial detention. A month ago, a similar case was opened against journalist Antonina Favorskaya, who covered Navalny’s trials—she is also in pre-trial detention.

On Saturday, April 27, two Russian journalists working with international news agencies were arrested in Russia at once—they were accused of having ties to the Anti-Corruption Foundation (FBK), founded by Alexey Navalny, which the authorities declared an “extremist organisation.”

41-year-old videographer Sergey Karelin, who has both Russian and Israeli citizenship, was detained in the Murmansk region in the Russian North last Friday and sent to pre-trial detention the following day. This was reported by the Associated Press and the Guardian.

The hearing on Karelin’s arrest likely took place in Apatity—this follows from the caption to a photograph of the journalist in an “aquarium” cage in the courtroom, published by AP. According to the agency, Karelin collaborated not only with them but also with other foreign media, including, for example, Deutsche Welle—before the German channel was banned from working in Russia.

AP noted that the agency is “very concerned about the detention of the Russian video journalist.” The length of Karelin’s detention was not specified.

“Navalny was killed, but the repression against everyone who is somehow connected with his name does not stop; rather, it is gaining momentum,” journalist Andrey Loshak wrote after his arrest. He said that he has known Karelin “since the days of NTV”. After the start of the war, Karelin left for Israel but then returned—“there was no work, and in general, he really missed home there.”

“And he also has grandparents living in Moscow, whom he loves very much. His grandfather is a veteran of the Battle of Rzhev and recently celebrated his 100th birthday. I don’t know anything about his connections with the FBK, but I do know that Serezha really wanted to work with me; it’s a pity that it never happened,” Loshak wrote. He attached a screenshot of Karelin’s message to the post.

There were no official reports about the criminal case against the journalist, and the agency did not specify under which criminal article he is being prosecuted. However, they wrote that he is accused of preparing materials for FBK’s YouTube channel. In that case, it is likely a matter of an accusation of “participation in an extremist community.”

On the same day, under the same article, another journalist—37-year-old Konstantin Gabov—was arrested in Moscow for “participating in the preparation of photo and video materials for publication on the YouTube channel ‘NavalnyLIVE’.” This was reported by the press service of the Moscow court system. In the photos and videos posted, the dishevelled journalist in a sweatshirt with the “Friendship” inscription walks around the cage of the Basmanny Court of Moscow. Gabov was sent to pre-trial detention until June 27.

The press service statement emphasised that Gabov is a producer for the Reuters news service.

Reuters commented on this news only the next day, noting that Gabov is a freelancer “who has occasionally contributed to Reuters’ news coverage in the past” but is not currently working for the publication.

“Journalists should be allowed to report the news in the public interest without harassment or harm wherever they are,” the agency noted.

Deutsche Welle also reported that from 2019 to 2020, Gabov worked as a their correspondent in Moscow. Shortly after the report of the arrest, the “Brief” Telegram channel published what it claims to be a letter found on the journalist during a search, in which Current Time (a project of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty) confirms cooperation with him.

Under the article on participation in an extremist community, Gabov and Karelin face up to six years in prison. As AP writes, the journalists do not admit guilt.

The ACF did not comment on the reports of the journalists’ arrests.

“I am on trial over an article about how the Penitentiary Service tortured Navalny.” The Favorskaya case

The first journalist arrested for “cooperation” with Navalny’s foundation was SotaVision correspondent Antonina Favorskaya. She was accused of “collecting material, producing and editing videos and publications for the ACF.”

Favorskaya was detained on March 17 after visiting Alexey Navalny’s grave at the Borisovskoe cemetery in Moscow. At first, she was arrested for 10 days under a protocl of disobeying police demands. She associated this with her publications about the murdered politician.

Favorskaya covered court sessions in Alexey Navalny’s cases and travelled to the Vladimir region—first to Pokrov, then to Kovrov. When the politician was transferred to the IK-3 maximum security colony in the Yamalo-Nenets autonomous okrug, Favorskaya immediately went to the village of Kharp and produced a report from there. She also filmed the last video with the politician on the eve of his death.

After the end of her administrative arrest, the journalist was detained right at the exit from the detention centre and taken for a search in a criminal case. She was accused of participating in the activities of the ACF.

A month ago, Antonina Favorskaya was sent to pre-trial detention. “I am on trial over an article about how the Federal Penitentiary Service tortured Alexey Navalny!” she managed to say as she was being escorted from the courtroom.

The politician’s associates called the accusations against the journalist “a complete lie”: “The hearing was held behind closed doors so as not to embarrass themselves once again, because there are no facts in the case and there simply cannot be any. The case of ‘extremism’ is completely made up.”

Editor: Maria Klimova

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