Detained Russian journalist suffered injuries, doctor says; lawyers say he was beaten

By ANTON TROIANOVSKI | The Washington Post | Published: June 8, 2019

MOSCOW — A Russian investigative journalist who spent his third day behind bars Saturday had suffered extensive injuries, a doctor who saw him said, as anger mounted in Russia's media community and beyond.

The 36-year-old journalist, Ivan Golunov, of the news outlet Meduza, was formally charged Saturday with drug possession in Moscow and then taken to a hospital. Golunov had a hematoma on his scalp, multiple abrasions on his chest, bruised ribs, and a suspected head injury and concussion, the ambulance doctor who transported Golunov told Russia's Interfax news agency. 

Golunov's lawyers said the journalist had been beaten while in custody.

"His condition, based on external indications, is very bad," lawyer Olga Dinze told reporters. "He doesn't fully understand where he is or what is happening to him."

The police denied the beating allegation and petitioned a Moscow court Saturday to keep Golunov in detention.

Golunov maintains he is innocent. His editors said they were convinced that the authorities had planted drugs on Golunov to punish him for his journalism, which uncovered apparent corruption in the Moscow Mayor's Office and elsewhere.

The reports on Golunov's injuries further stoked the outrage among Russian journalists, and prominent entertainers rallied to the reporter's defense. While harassment and threats against Russian journalists are common, the detention of a prominent reporter in the capital appeared to represent a new level of intensity in the authorities' crackdown on the news media.

"I want to be proud of Russia," Russian rock legend Boris Grebenshchikov said in a video posted online calling for Golunov's release. "What is happening now is a shame and a disgrace."

Photographs of one-person protests around Russia in support of Golunov coursed through social media. People took care to stage their protests individually so as to avoid detention for participating in an unauthorized gathering. Protesters also gathered outside Russian embassies in London and Berlin.

"We join the Russian media community in calling for Ivan Golunov's release," Andrea Kalan, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, posted on Twitter. "There should be a thorough and transparent investigation into this case. Like all journalists simply doing their jobs, Golunov should not be targeted in relation for his work."

Golunov's arrest and the subsequent protests have overshadowed the end of the economic forum in St. Petersburg, one of the main annual events on Russian President Vladimir Putin's calendar.

The police claimed that they had found more than 3 grams of mephedrone in Golunov's backpack and more than 5 grams of cocaine in his apartment when officers detained him on Thursday. On Saturday, Golunov was charged with drug possession with intent to sell, meaning he faces more than 10 years in prison.

But the police case against Golunov appeared shaky. On Friday, for instance, the Moscow Police Department posted photographs on its website of a drug lab it said was inside Golunov's apartment. The department later removed those photographs and said they stemmed from a different case.

In a sign that the Golunov case could exacerbate tensions in the Russian elite, even some leading pro-Kremlin journalists cautiously voiced support for the detained reporter.

"For now, no indisputable fact has been publicized that shows Golunov to have been involved in selling drugs," Evgeny Popov, co-host of a state TV political talk show, wrote on the instant-messaging network Telegram. "This all looks like a setup." 

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