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Russia places top investigative journalist on federal wanted list

Russian authorities have placed Andrei Soldatov, one of the country’s leading independent investigative journalists and security service experts, on the federal wanted list.

Soldatov discovered that a criminal case had been opened against him on Monday after two Russia-based banks informed him that his accounts were frozen and he subsequently ended up in the federal wanted persons database. Although the case was opened on March 17, he had not received any official notification.

Although he still does not know the precise details of the case against him, Soldatov told the Moscow Times by telephone that the news did not come as a complete surprise given the growing pressure he and his team have felt to from the authorities in recent weeks.

Together with his colleague Irina Borogan, Soldatov is the main expert of the Russian security services.

Since the beginning of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the two men have released multiple accounts of purges and disorder within Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) – which, according to Soldatov, authorities have worked tirelessly to “disavow”.

“I couldn’t accurately predict what was going to happen, but it was clear that for the FSB it’s important that this information about something wrong in the FSB should just go away,” Soldatov said.

Soldatov is the third Russian journalist to appear on the country’s federal wanted list in the past month as he cracks down on independent voices amid his war in Ukraine.

In May, a Moscow court ordered the arrest in absentia of journalist Michael Nacke and Conflict Intelligence Team founder Ruslan Leviev, both accused of spreading “false” information about the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Figures in Soldatov’s database suggest he could face charges similar to those of Nacke and Leviev. But he said it’s unclear if his case will ultimately have “unique features”.

While Soldatov currently resides outside of Russia, he said the arrest warrant means he cannot travel freely to certain countries due to the risk of cross-border detention.

“The situation with bank accounts is also unpleasant,” Soldatov said.

“When you learn that each of your accounts shows a negative balance of $80,000 […] it puts you under a bit of pressure.

Editor’s note: Soldatov is a regular contributor to the Moscow Times Opinion column.

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