A criminal case has been opened against a Siberian journalist whose news website had published content critical of Russia’s military operation in Ukraine, Russian media reported on Thursday.
Mikhail Afanasyev, chief editor of Novy Fokus in the Russian region of Khakassia, was arrested by security forces Wednesday over the website’s reporting on 11 riot police who allegedly refused deployment to Ukraine as part of Russia’s military action there.
Afanasyev was accused Thursday of disseminating “deliberately false information” about the Russian armed forces, an offense which carries a maximum 10-year jail sentence under a law passed last month.
Afanasyev has published numerous investigations into sensitive issues in Khakassia, such as organized crime and alleged abuses of power by local officials.
He was accused of libel in 2009 over reporting that criticized the Russian government’s response to an explosion at the country’s largest hydroelectric plant that year. And in 2016, he reportedly faced death threats from a criminal gang active in the Krasnoyarsk region of Siberia, after he detailed the group’s illegal activities and suspected ties to local police.
Another Siberia-based journalist was also arrested Wednesday on suspicion of breaching Russia’s new laws on media coverage of the situation in Ukraine. Sergei Mikhailov, founder of the LIStok weekly newspaper based in the Republic of Altay, was reportedly placed in pre-trial detention over the outlet’s alleged “calls for sanctions against Russia.”
LIStok’s website has been blocked since March for “promoting” activities opposing Moscow’s actions in Ukraine.