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Investigators raid Russia opposition journalist’s flat

February 28, 2017

Investigators on Tuesday searched the flat of prominent opposition journalist Zoya Svetova, her husband Viktor Dzyadko told AFP.

“About 10 people are taking part in the search” which began more than two hours ago, Dzyadko said by telephone.

Svetova, 57, who writes hard-hitting articles for opposition media including New Times magazine, has focused on writing about prisoner abuse in high-profile cases and has interviewed many of them in jail.

Until last year, she was a long-time member of a public commission that monitors jail conditions in Moscow.

Writing on Facebook, rights lawyer Anna Stavitskaya, said those conducting the search were from Russia’s Investigative Committee that probes serious crime.

Stavitskaya, who went to Svetova’s flat to support her, said the search was linked to a case of embezzlement from the state by the former Yukos oil company headed by Mikhail Khodorkovsky dating back 14 years.

Khodorkovsky was arrested in 2003 after openly opposing Vladimir Putin during his first term as president, and went on to spend a decade in jail on tax evasion charges. He now lives in London.

Svetova has published articles on the website of Khodorkovsky’s Open Russia foundation.

Officers were reading documents and downloading files from computers, Stavitskaya said.

A source familiar with the situation told Interfax news agency that the search was looking for “materials and evidence about an incident of money laundering that is part of the ‘big’ Yukos case.”

The source said investigators believe money was laundered “through financing of various organisations and specific people.”

Khodorkovsky wrote on Twitter: “They’ve come to search Zoya Svetova’s flat over the Yukos case… They’ve completely lost it.”

Rights activists including Lev Ponomaryov of For Human Rights movement gathered outside Svetova’s flat but were not allowed in by investigators.

“We are acquaintances and friends. We want to observe what is happening with the search — whether or not it is lawful,” said Ponomaryov.

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