Russian investigative journalist detained, charged over alleged drug offences

Ivan Golunov
Russian journalist Ivan Golunov is seen in Moscow, Russia.

A Russian investigative journalist who was detained this week for alleged drug offences was taken to court on Saturday to face possible arrest, after being hospitalized with suspected head injuries.

Ivan Golunov, 36, had been on his way to a meeting with a source on Thursday when he was detained in central Moscow and illegal drugs were found in his rucksack, according to police and his employer, the online news portal Meduza.

A lawyer for Golunov, who is known for investigating alleged corruption among Moscow city officials, said he believed police had planted the drugs on his client to frame him and that Golunov had been physically beaten.

“The detainee … complained of feeling unwell. An ambulance was called,” Moscow City police said in a statement on its website. “Paramedics decided that he should be taken to hospital for examination.”

Interfax news agency cited an unnamed paramedic as saying Golunov had multiple chest abrasions, rib bruises and suspected head injuries. The agency subsequently said he had been released from hospital and brought to court, which under Russian law is where he would have to be charged with any alleged offences.

News agency RIA later cited Alexander Myasnikov, chief doctor of the hospital, as saying following the medical examination that Golunov did not have any serious injuries.

A Moscow court said it had received a request from investigators to hold Golunov in custody on drug charges. He could either be placed under arrest in custody, subject to house arrest, released on bail, or released with travel restrictions.

The court may also extend his detention by 72 hours.

The U.S. embassy called on the Russian authorities to free Golunov and ensure the transparency of the investigation, Interfax reported.

The editorial management of Meduza, which is based in Latvia, has said Golunov had received threats in recent months in connection with a story he was working on.

A number of independent reporters in Russia have been prosecuted, threatened or killed. In 2017 journalist Yulia Latynina was forced to flee Russia after a series of attacks.

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