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Russia complains its journalists are under attack and facing ‘witch hunts’ just days after arresting an American reporter

The Kremlin Palace in Moscow, Russia.The Kremlin Palace in Moscow, Russia.

Jarung H/Shutterstock

  • Russia said its journalists face attacks and “witch hunts” after the death of blogger Vladlen Tatarsky.
  • Tatarsky was a pro-Kremlin military blogger who praised Russia’s war in Ukraine.
  • The claims come days after Russia arrested WSJ reporter Evan Gershkovich for alleged espionage.

A Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson claimed that the country’s journalists face “witch hunts” and other forms of discrimination after the death of pro-Kremlin military blogger Vladlen Tatarsky. 

The comments follow abuse of journalists in Russia and come just days after the widely-condemned arrest by Russian authorities of Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich for alleged espionage. 

In a statement on Monday, ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova addressed Tatarsky’s death after an explosion at a St. Petersburg’s cafe, praising the blogger and pointing fingers at Kyiv leadership.

“The professional activities of Vladlen Tatarsky and his service to the Fatherland caused hatred in the Kyiv regime. He was dangerous for them, but boldly went to the end, doing his duty,” she said. 

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov also blamed Ukraine, calling the incident “a terrorist act,” according to state-run media outlet TASS. Ukraine denied any role in the explosion. 

Zakharova specifically addressed Tatarsky’s coverage of Russia’s war in Ukraine, saying that “it is thanks to the Russian war correspondents that the world sees truthful and timely footage and learns about what is happening in Ukraine.” Russian leadership has taken steps to silence criticisms or observations outside the official narrative.

Tatarsky, whose real name was Maxim Fomin, gained popularity for his pro-war blogging on his Telegram channel. His comments calling for murder and looting at a Kremlin reception celebrating the illegal annexation of four Ukrainian territories last year garnered controversy. Photos of him posing with weapons while wearing fatigues in Ukraine were also widely circulated.

Beyond these activities, some of which would appear to fall outside of what might traditionally be considered journalism, he played a role in Russia’s offensives in the Donbas region in 2014, CNN reported, and an assault in Mariupol last year

In her comments on Tatarsky’s death, Zakharova also assessed the international reputation of Russian journalists, making broad claims about the discrimination they face that ignore Russian actions at home. 

“They are being harassed, literally stigmatized with special markings on the digital platforms of American internet monopolies, and subjected to “witch hunts” in the Western media,” she said, apparently referring to state media indicators for certain social media accounts.

These criticisms of how Russia’s journalists are treated sharply contrast with the treatment of journalists in Russia, where reporters have been killed or jailed. The country’s Federal Security Bureau detained American reporter Gershkovich last Thursday, alleging he had spied on behalf of the US. The WSJ and White House have denied these claims and made strong calls for his immediate release and return home.

According the WSJ, it’s the first time Russia has brought a spy case against a foreign journalist since the Cold War. 

“It’s a new low in the US-Russia relationship,” said Alexander Gabuev, director of the Carnegie Russia Eurasia Center, according to the WSJ. He added that the arrest of this accredited American reporter “is really setting a precedent.”

Read the original article on Business Insider
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