Russia drops charges against investigative reporter after backlash

REUTERS/Tatyana Makeyeva

Russian authorities have dropped a criminal case against investigative reporter Ivan Golunov, after a fierce backlash that appeared to catch the Kremlin off guard, CNN reported.

Minister of Internal Affairs Vladimir Kolokoltsev said Tuesday the case was dropped because of lack of evidence. Golunov will be released from home arrest Tuesday, Kolokoltsev added.

“According to the results of biological, forensic and fingerprint examinations and DNA testing, a decision was made to terminate the criminal prosecution of citizen Ivan Golunov due to the lack of evidence of his participation in the crime,” the minister said.

Golunov, a leading investigative journalist known for reports on official corruption, was detained Thursday in Moscow on drugs charges his supporters said were fabricated.

His arrest prompted an outpouring of journalistic solidarity which appeared to take authorities by surprise. Over the weekend, reporters took turns staging solo protests, lining up to hold placards outside the Moscow branch of the Ministry of Internal Affairs.

In a statement released after the ministry's announcement, Golunov's colleagues said they were “glad that the authorities have heard the society.”

“This is the result of an unprecedented international campaign of journalistic and civic solidarity,” the Meduza journalists said in a statement. “Together we did an incredible thing: We stopped the prosecution of an innocent man.”

The police officers who arrested Golunov will be investigated to “assess the legality” of their actions, Kolokoltsev said. “For the time being, they have been suspended from active duty,” he said.

Kolokoltsev said he had asked President Vladimir Putin to dismiss two regional police officials — chief of internal affairs at the western district of Russia, Andrei Puchkov, and head of the Moscow directorate for drug control at the Ministry of Internal Affairs, Yuri Devyatkin.