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Russia probes, searches leading radio station

July 5, 2016

Russia’s security service (FSB) said on Tuesday it had launched a criminal probe into leading liberal radio station Echo of Moscow after agents raided its office.

The FSB is “investigating a criminal case over the publication on the Echo of Moscow website of an article containing calls for actions directed at violation of Russia’s territorial integrity and inciting hatred,” the powerful agency said in a statement.

FSB agents searched the radio station’s offices and “seized electronic correspondence between the editors of Echo of Moscow and a possible author of the publication,” it said.

Echo of Moscow is a leading liberal station whose presenters often express critical views on government policies and invite opposition politicians and activists who do not get shown on state television.

Though it is part of a holding controlled by Russia’s gas giant Gazprom, the station has kept its independent editorial policy and is frequently targeted by pro-Kremlin activists and conservative politicians.

Its veteran editor in chief Alexei Venediktov on Tuesday wrote on Twitter that the FSB is also going to question employees.

He said the investigation is in connection with an opposition columnist Andrei Piontkovsky, whose blogs are sometimes published on the station’s website.

The Kremlin has been accused of overseeing a wide crackdown on independent media in Russia under President Vladimir Putin, with several publications recently having key editorial staff fired.

Also on Tuesday, Russia’s Rambler and Co, the owner of Gazeta.Ru news website, which has published investigative stories about Russian soldiers in Ukraine and Syria, said it is appointing a new editor in chief.

The company did not explain the departure of the editor but a source in Gazeta.Ru told AFP that she was sacked unexpectedly.

In May, three top editors resigned from an independent news agency RBC Daily, which has also published a number of reports on Russia’s involvement in Ukraine as well as business activities of Putin’s close associates and family members.

Dispatches from AFP concerning freedom of information, censorship and news coverage in regions where independent media is under threat.