Roman Dobrokhotov, chief editor of The Insider, helped unveil the identities of the Salisbury poisoners after their botched attempt to kill the former Russian military intelligence officer Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in March 2018. His arrest comes just days after his media outlet was branded a “foreign agent” on July 23 by the Kremlin His detention also comes ahead of Russia’s parliamentary elections in September.
The term “foreign agent” has negative connotations and implies that an organisation is receiving overseas funding, and is engaged in “political” activity.
News of Mr Dobrokhotov’s detention broke after he tweeted on Wednesday that police were “knocking” on his apartment door.
The legal aid group, Pravozashchita Otkrytki, later reported that officers confiscated phones, laptops and tablets during the raid, as well as the journalist’s international passport.
The Baza news website reported that Mr Dobrokhotov’s arrest was allegedly connected to a libel case brought against The Insider by the Dutch blogger and journalist Max van der Werff.
Stalina Gurevich, a lawyer representing the Dutch journalist, told TASS on Wednesday, that her client was suing Mr Dobrokhotov for falsely claiming that Mr van der Werff had links with Russia’s military intelligence – the GRU.
Mr van der Werff has frequently disputed the findings of an international investigation into the cause of the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 in July 2014, as it flew over eastern Ukraine on its way from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur.
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“It will become more difficult to work now,” he said.
“I don’t have cell phones, I can’t travel and meet my colleagues – many of our investigations are international.
“And, of course, it’s serious pressure. But it’s clear that The Insider will continue to exist. Investigations will be released even if I am arrested.
“If they hope to halt the work of the news site, they hope in vain.”