MOSCOW — The arrest of a revered investigative journalist on doubtful drug prices has hit a nerve in Russia, sparking widening protests on Monday and statements from a large circle of celebrities criticizing abuse by the safety providers.
Supporters of the reporter, Ivan Golunov, held round the clock protests outdoors the police headquarters in central Moscow and have referred to as for a march on the constructing on Wednesday, which is Russia Day, the nation’s nationwide vacation.
In a surprising transfer, three necessary newspapers printed the identical giant front-page headline: “I/We’re Ivan Golunov.” Mr. Golunov, who works for the Meduza on-line information service, is well-known for exposing corruption in Moscow’s metropolis corridor.
Along with the headline, the three papers — Vedomosti, Kommersant and RBC — revealed related statements suggesting that Mr. Golunov was detained due to his work and demanding a clear investigation into the police actions that led to his arrest final Thursday.
“I wish to reside in a rustic the place there isn’t any concern; I don’t wish to be afraid,” mentioned Chulpan Khamatova, an actress who appeared on a video circulated on-line with quite a few well-known Russians demanding freedom for Mr. Golunov, together with actors, administrators, rappers, comedians, writers, journalists and others. Ms. Khamatova had beforehand endorsed Vladimir V. Putin as a presidential candidate.
Dmitri S. Peskov, Mr. Putin’s spokesman, mentioned that the president was conscious of the case however that there could be no touch upon its deserves.
“This case raised many questions,” Mr. Peskov instructed reporters on Monday. “We see it and we pay attention to it, however I feel it’s mistaken to say that there’s a widespread feeling of mistrust towards the regulation enforcement system.”
Undeterred by the protests, the Russian authorities sought on Monday to increase the jail time period for Leonid Volkov, an opposition activist, as he was finishing a 20-day sentence for serving to to prepare anti-government rallies, mentioned Ivan Zhdanov, who works with Mr. Volkov on the Anti-Corruption Basis, which was based by the opposition chief Aleksei Navalny.
Analysts commented on the exceptional breadth of help for Mr. Golunov. That displays Russians’ frustrations with the state inside a state created by the safety providers, mentioned Max Trudolyubov, a former editorial web page editor on the Vedomosti each day.
“Individuals know that they reside in Russia, the place issues like that occur on a regular basis,” he mentioned. “However, abruptly, one thing occurs that makes everybody say ‘sufficient is sufficient.’ ”
Mr. Trudolyubov mentioned it was too quickly to say the place it’d lead, however that it might ultimately erode the impunity loved by the safety providers.
“At this level it appears like you’ll be able to at the least dent this fortress, create holes in it,” Mr. Trudolyubov mentioned. “The truth that the general public outcry is so loud signifies that it issues. They received’t be capable of get away with it so simply.”
That the arrest occurred in Moscow, and that Mr. Golunov, 36, was well-known round Moscow media circles as an trustworthy, dogged and barely awkward reporter, have in all probability served to amplify the case. His latest works embody exposés about how management of the funeral trade shifted from prison gangs to a monopoly by authorities officers; mortgage sharks evicting individuals from tons of of residences; and potential graft surrounding the costly, prolonged renovation of a well-known fountain.
On Friday, the day after Mr. Golunov’s arrest, the police introduced that he had been present in possession of huge portions of medication and launched what gave the impression to be photos of his house that made it resemble a drug lab.
The Russian safety providers have a behavior of submitting drug prices towards activists and journalists they discover troublesome, sending them to jail for a number of years. Earlier circumstances have been within the provinces, nevertheless.
Moscow journalists pushed again instantly, mentioning that solely one of many 9 images of lab gear and clear baggage of white powder was truly taken in Mr. Golunov’s house. The police backed down, admitting that was true however contending that the images have been associated to a unique case that may contain Mr. Golunov.
Subsequent there was a tug-of-war over Mr. Golunov’s situation, with medics on the courthouse suggesting the reporter wanted therapy for potential damaged ribs and different accidents suffered throughout a police beating. After he was taken to a clinic and a Moscow physician near Mr. Putin pronounced him match, the physician was pilloried on social media.
On Saturday evening, tons of of supporters gathered outdoors the Moscow courthouse the place Mr. Golunov was being arraigned, breaking out into periodic chants of “Freedom” or “Ivan.” When the decide ordered two months of home arrest, as an alternative of being held in jail because the prosecutor requested, the gang erupted in cheers.
This can be very uncommon for any decide in a Russian courtroom to contradict prosecutors, notably in a case involving accusations over giant portions of medication, so the home arrest was seen as an admission that your entire case was flawed. However Mr. Golunov might nonetheless be convicted and jailed.
Mr. Golunov and his employers mentioned that they thought he was being punished for his work. In an apart to associates in courtroom, Mr. Golunov mentioned he thought his story in regards to the funeral trade may need prompted his arrest, since he obtained threats afterward.
By Monday, the protests had moved properly past the fraternity of journalists, and past Moscow as properly. Demonstrations have been held in quite a few Russian cities and overseas.
And the police gave the impression to be beginning to roll again the case, asserting that Mr. Golunov had handed a drug check.
Even the compliant state information media solid doubt on the arrest. On Sunday evening, Dmitri Kiselyov, the anchor of Vesti Nedelu, the principle weekly information present on state tv, mentioned that some police work had been “clumsy” and that investigators may need crushed the suspect. However he instructed that Mr. Golunov was a mediocre journalist and mentioned he would obtain a good trial.
On NTV, one other state channel, a information anchor mentioned that if the drug case had been manufactured, these accountable ought to be punished.
Group protests and not using a allow are banned in Russia, so people scattered alongside the sidewalk outdoors police headquarters on Monday holding up indicators. Considered one of them, Aleksandra Meretieva, 21, a pc science pupil, held up a duplicate of the Kommersant newspaper with the protest headline.
“That is necessary to all of us as a result of this may occur to anyone,” she mentioned. “The system is managed by a sure group, and if the pursuits of this group get violated, they struggle towards it. Persons are afraid for his or her future and their kids.”