Russia makes humiliating U-turn after backlash to detention and injury of investigative journalist

ivan golunovRussian investigative journalist Ivan Golunov leaves a defendant's cage in a court room in Moscow, Russia, on June 8, 2019.Evgeny Feldman/meduza.io via AP

  • Police in Moscow arrested and detained prominent investigative journalist Ivan Golunov last Thursday.
  • They charged him with drug dealing, which Golunov and his supporters all deny. His lawyer said police framed him.
  • People around the country, including Russia's leading independent newspapers, protested furiously against Golunov's detention and treatment.
  • Authorities in Russia have now backed down, with prosecutors dropping all charges against him on Tuesday evening, citing a lack of evidence.
  • Golunov is known for his reports exposing corruption in Moscow's political and business elite.
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Russian prosecutors have dropped all charges against a star investigative journalist, after people across Russia made an unexpectedly strident protest over his detention.

Police in Moscow arrested Ivan Golunov last Thursday and detained him until Saturday, when he emerged in court with bruises, cuts, and other signs of having been hurt. He was transferred to house arrest that day.

Golunov was accused of drug dealing, a charge that he denies. His lawyer and employer, the independent news site Meduza, say police planted evidence on Golunov to frame him.

He has now been cleared of all charges due to a lack of evidence to implicate him, Russia's internal ministry said in a Tuesday afternoon statement.

ivan golunovRussian investigative journalist Ivan Golunov inside a defendants' cage as he attends a court hearing in Moscow, Russia, on June 8, 2019. The writing on the T-shirt reads &quotEditorial desk demands blood.&quotTatyana Makeyeva/Reuters

The 36-year-old journalist is known for his reports exposing corruption within Moscow's political and business elite. Meduza said on Sunday that it was "100 percent certain that the persecution of Ivan Golunov is related to his journalistic work."

Journalists around Russia, including from major independent news sites, banded together on Monday to rally behind Golunov.

Vedomosti, Komersant, and RBK on Monday published identical front-page headlines - saying in Russian "I am/We are Ivan Golunov." They questioned the evidence against him, and demanded transparency and a review of police behavior toward him.

Read more: The Russian state tried to intimidate its media with the shocking treatment of a star journalist, but they just showed they're not listening

It was a rare show of coordination in Russia's otherwise divided media landscape.

ivan golunov russia front pagesThe front pages of Russia's leading newspapers (from left to right) RBK, Kommersant and Vedomosti all published the same front page in support of Ivan Golunov on June 10, 2019. The headline reads &quotI am/We are Ivan Golunov.&quotShamil Zhumatov/Reuters

Police initially released photos of drugs and scales in what they said was Golunov's home.

However, they later retracted them and said they were in fact taken in a different apartment, The Associated Press reported.

The Kremlin also appeared to row back on Golunov during Monday.

CNN cited Dmitry Peskov, the spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin, as saying: "We have paid attention to the corrections that were later published, and we also proceed from the fact that there are several issues that are in need of a clarification."

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