Former RFE/RL Columnist In Tatarstan Blocked From Cancer Treatment In Israel

By Idel.Realities

Russian investigators have confiscated the passport of a former columnist at RFE/RL's Idel.Realities online project that covers news and developments in Russia's Volga and Urals area, a move that has blocked her from traveling to Israel to receive cancer treatment.

Marina Yudkevich wrote on Facebook on September 1 that after police searched her home on August 17, she and six other journalists whose homes were also searched that day in Tatarstan's capital, Kazan, were officially designated as witnesses in an extremism case related to an online post about Russia's ongoing invasion of Ukraine.

Yudkevich wrote that the journalists, including herself, were ordered not to leave Kazan and investigators confiscated her passport, computers, mobile phones, and other electronic devices.

"I see two variants for my future: either I am burdened with cancer in a detention center and later in a penal colony, or, if I am be a bit optimistic, I am allowed to die at home," Yudkevich wrote, adding that investigators will most likely change her witness status to that of a suspect.

Yudkevich also wrote that she had an appointment at a clinic in Jerusalem on August 24 that she was forced to skip as she was unable to travel abroad without her passport, which investigators refused to return.

The Setevyye Svobody group, which monitors the rights of online journalists, said in a statement on September 1 that it helped Yudkevich file an appeal against the home search and confiscation of her passport with Tatarstan's Prosecutor-General's Office.

RFE/RL President and CEO Jamie Fly has condemned the searches of the journalists' homes.

President Vladimir Putin in March signed a law that calls for lengthy prison terms for distributing "deliberately false information" about Russian military operations as the Kremlin seeks to control the narrative about its war in Ukraine.

The law envisages sentences of up to 10 years in prison for individuals convicted of an offense, while the penalty for the distribution of "deliberately false information" about the Russian Army that leads to "serious consequences" is 15 years in prison.

It also makes it illegal "to make calls against the use of Russian troops to protect the interests of Russia" or "for discrediting such use" with a possible penalty of up to three years in prison. The same provision applies to calls for sanctions against Russia.