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Russia issues arrest warrants against investigative journalists

The move appears to be part of President Vladimir Putin's campaign to persecute media outlets that dare to challenge the Kremlin's narrative about the war in Ukraine and tell the truth.

According to IStories, an independent investigative media outlet and partner of OCCRP, the Russian Interior Ministry put Anin and Fomina on a wanted list on Monday and subsequently Moscow's Dorogomilovsky District Court arrested the journalists “in absentia.”

The two reportedly face five to ten years in prison.

Earlier this year, Russian authorities opened a case against Fomina for spreading false information after she published an interview with a corporal in the Russian armed forces who had confessed to the murder of a civilian in Ukraine. According to the pro-government Russian news agency Tass, Fomina allegedly “blackmailed” the man into admitting to the murder.

IStories staff claim the arrest warrants are part of the government's efforts to silence the outlet because of its rigorous investigations into Russian war crimes in Ukraine.

But even before the war, Anin had been persecuted by the Russian authorities because of his investigative reports in which he had uncovered corruption cases in Putin's circle.

Anin is widely respected worldwide as a leading investigative journalist. He was named a Knight Fellow of Stanford University in 2019 and subsequently received the prestigious Knight Trailblazer Award from the International Center for Journalists.

In 2020, he founded IStories, an OCCRP member center that has quickly made a name for itself as a pioneer among Russia's investigative media.

In 2021, Russian authorities labeled Anin and several other IStories journalists as “foreign agents,” citing the country’s controversial 2012 law.

Since the beginning of the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, the Foreign Agents Law, passed in 2012 and reminiscent of the negative connotations of the Soviet era, has been increasingly applied by the Russian authorities.

It has become Moscow's preferred tool for dealing with government critics, civil society organizations, media outlets, independent journalists, activists and individuals who receive foreign funds and are perceived as being under foreign influence.