RFE/RL, Novaya Gazeta Journalists Detained In Western Russian City

Two RFE/RL Russian Service correspondents and two journalists from the independent newspaper Novaya gazeta were detained by police in the western Russian city of Belgorod on February 26.

The four journalists -- RFE/RL’s Sergei Khazov-Cassia and Andrei Kiselyov and Novaya gazeta’s Ilya Azar and Ivan Zhilin -- were covering a small demonstration against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in the city some 40 kilometers from the border.

A local man, 56-year-old Vladimir Bilevich, was also detained while wearing a high-visibility vest with the slogan “No War” in Russian and Ukrainian.

The five detainees were questioned as witnesses in a purported local robbery that occurred in Belgorod on February 13. The journalists were released after about four hours.

Bilevich, who was not released, told RFE/RL he is likely to be charged with “displaying Nazi symbols.” Police, he said, consider the slogan “No War” in Ukrainian to be a demonstration of extremism.

On February 24, three RFE/RL journalists were detained in Moscow while covering an antiwar protest. They were held by police for six hours and released without charge.

RFE/RL President Jamie Fly said following that incident that Russia, having launched an unprovoked attack on Ukraine, "now seeks to deny its citizens access to any and all information that would expose the falsehoods it has used to justify the invasion."

The Russian authorities have tried to control media coverage of the war in Ukraine. The state media-monitoring agency, Roskomnadzor, earlier on February 26, threatened to block 10 media outlets, including RFE/RL’s Crimea.Realities, over their reporting about Ukrainian civilian casualties.