- Russian censors have demanded the deletion of articles describing claims that Putin has a secret palace.
- At least 10 news outlets were told to remove dozens of articles on Tuesday or risk being blocked in Russia.
- The reports come from anti-corruption campaigner Alexei Navalny, who was jailed last year.
Russia’s media regulator has demanded the removal of dozens of news articles reporting allegations of President Vladimir Putin’s corruption, including the claim that he has a secret, lavish palace.
The regulator, Roskomnadzor, told at least 10 major news outlets on Tuesday that their sites would be blocked if they did not remove the material, amounting to at least 79 reports, according to the Moscow Times.
The crackdown centers on allegations made by opposition figure Alexei Navalny about the lavish properties of Putin and his entourage, and the allegedly corrupt schemes that fund them.
This includes details from Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Organization (FKB), which said Putin funded a billion-dollar palace through bribery. It also includes reports on real estate owned by top Putin loyalists, according to the Moscow Times.
In January, FBK published a cache of images it said showed Putin’s palace, including photos of a four-poster bathtub, a pole dance hall and an ice skating rink. The building, he said, cost about $1.4 billion.
Several other media published their own investigations indicating the existence of the palace near Gelendzhik, Krasnodar Krai, on the Black Sea.
After the publication of the FKB report, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said: “These are all absolutely unfounded statements. This is pure nonsense and a compilation, and there is nothing wrong with it. ‘other in there.”
In August 2021, the Kremlin officially designated the FKB as an extremist organization, as reported by Russian newspaper Kommersant.
Outlets invited to pull material on Tuesday include broadcaster TV Rain; the investigative news site Meduza; Moscow Times Russian-language service; the Svobodnye Novosti news agency; and several regional sites, TV rain reported.
All outlets have complied in order to avoid being blocked, according to the Moscow Times.
Svobodnye Novosti said Roskomnadzor asked him to suppress nine reports under the auspices of an anti-extremist law. The material could incite “mass riots” and that it came from an organization “whose activities are known to be undesirable”, the outlet said it was said.
The instruction came just over a year after the FKB unveiled its “Putin’s Palace” report. Navalny was arrested and jailed two days before the report was released. He was entering Russia for the first time since his near-fatal poisoning, which he accuses Putin of ordering.
It is one of many sweeping measures aimed at stifling Russian public access to reporting on Putin-related intrigues.
In December last year, the media was ordered to remove the article relating to his supposedly extramarital daughter, as reported by the Moscow Times.
Several publications have been designated as “foreign agents” and display a warning banner at the top of their sites, as seen on the TV Rain website here.
Media freedom campaign group Reporters Without Borders ranks Russia 150 out of 179 on its World Press Freedom Index.
“The harassment [of journalists] reached a new level since the return to Russia of Kremlin opponent Alexei Navalny and his immediate arrest upon his arrival,” the group wrote.