Russia aims new legal action at two prominent dissenters from its ban on Russian internet news outlets, according to a court declaration released Tuesday as part of Moscow’s first response to what it sees as “illegal interference with its internal affairs.”
The government has opened a criminal case into charges brought by Russian journalist Stanislav Markelov, who is charged with “incitement to mass unrest” after publicly accusing the government of ordering a “mafia” crackdown on independent news outlets.
Markelov was also charged last week with “aggravated abuse of power” and “obstructing the duty of a public officer.”
In his response to the charges, Markelov denies all charges and claims police are conspiring to bring criminal charges against him. He argues his statements are protected by the Russian Constitution and the right to free speech.
An investigative report in Izvestia newspaper said Markelov was “accused of inciting people to mass disturbances in the country,” claiming Markelov had been part of a group that wanted to overthrow the government in 2012. Markelov strongly denies the allegations in the Izvestia report.
The Russian news site Gazeta.ru reported that Markelov is being investigated for “inciting a large group of people to disturb the public order and the authorities.” Gazeta.ru also reports Markelov’s statement on the charges is included in a transcript of Markelov’s interview with Russian TV channel “Rossiya-24” earlier Tuesday. That transcript can be seen here and here.
Markelov’s statement is the first document the Russian authorities have released in the aftermath of the Nov. 22 U.S. court ruling that the U.S. Department of Justice has filed a lawsuit against the Russian government to block two influential media outlets: REN-TV and RT television. (RT does not advertise, and only broadcasts U.S. news that is considered “fair and balanced,” according to its website