The Russian Interior Affairs Ministry has, under public pressure, dropped drug-dealing charges against a prominent investigative journalist, in a sudden turn of events.
Interior Minister Vladimir Kolokoltsev surprised the nation and the world on Tuesday after announcing that all charges against investigative journalist, Ivan Golunov, had been dropped because police had found “no proof of his part in a crime.”
The Interior Affairs Ministry promised to go after police officers that had allegedly tried to frame the journalist.
Kolokoltsev also said he would ask Russian President Vladimir Putin to dismiss two senior police officials and suspend the officers who detained Golunov. One of those officials who could be dismissed is the Moscow anti-drugs police chief.
Golunov, an investigative reporter for the independent Latvia-based Meduza online news agency, was stopped by police in Moscow on Thursday.
The 36-year-old was detained and charged with drug dealing that he rejected. During his detention, Golunov was allegedly beaten and denied a lawyer for over 12 hours.
On Saturday, Golunov was placed under house arrest. The drug-related charges could put Golunov in prison for up to 20 years.
Golunov’s detention sparked a public and international outcry, condemning Russian police for fabricating the drug-dealing story against him.
A proper photo: pic.twitter.com/lKGW2lWyok
— Meduza in English (@meduza_en) June 11, 2019
Upon his release, a baffled but pleased Golunov said, “I don’t understand what’s going on. I hope that the investigation will continue.”
The Meduza reporter stated that he hopes “No one else will have to go through the same experience as I’ve been through.”
His release was announced after police retracted the photographs they had distributed, allegedly showing that Golunov runs a drugs lab in his apartment. Moscow police recanted stating that the pictures had been taken elsewhere.
Valentina Matviyenko, Russia’s third most senior official after the president and prime minister, said the law enforcement agencies had made “mistakes and violations,” which had “given rise to distrust in the investigation.”
The announcement of the release prompted Golunov’s employer, Meduza to issue a statement on its website.
The online news agency expresses gratitude for what they describe as “an unprecedented international solidarity campaign” to make the “unbelievable happen” and to prevent “criminal prosecution of an innocent man.”