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26 Jan, 2021 13:11

Maria Butina & Kirill Vyshinsky stage protest outside Latvian embassy, over persecution of journalists working with Russian media

Maria Butina & Kirill Vyshinsky stage protest outside Latvian embassy, over persecution of journalists working with Russian media

Journalists Kirill Vyshinsky and Maria Butina, both victims of foreign anti-Russia sentiment in the past, have staged a protest outside Latvia’s embassy, showing their support for journalists being persecuted by the Baltic state.

The duo showed up at the embassy in central Moscow on Tuesday, staging individual pickets to condemn ongoing criminal proceedings against the Russia-linked journalists.

Butina sported handcuffs and held a placard reading “Max security free speech zone” and showing a silhouette of Latvia fenced off with barbed wire.


“Unfortunately, I had to put the handcuffs on yet again. This is the very last thing I would like to do, but I cannot do otherwise. This is an action of solidarity with our compatriots, with journalists in Latvia, who are now being persecuted for an alternative point of view, for their work with the Russian media,” Butina told reporters during the protest.

Vyshinsky, who carried a banner reading “Stop persecution of journalists,” said that Latvia has been violating the fundamental right of a journalist to being free to pick up an outlet that “fits their beliefs.”


The protest came in response to a criminal case opened in Latvia late in December against seven journalists, who are accused of alleged violations of EU sanctions. All seven journalists have been working for two Russia-linked outlets – Baltnews and Sputnik. If found guilty, the accused could face large fines and even prison terms.

Both Butina and Vyshinsky have personally tasted anti-Russian persecution while abroad. Butina, a young gun activist, was arrested in the US in 2018, where she had been staying on a student visa. She became entangled in the Russiagate saga, facing accusations of being a Kremlin plant who was being used to infiltrate US political circles though cozying up with Republican politicians and conservative activists. She ultimately pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to violate the law on the registration of foreign agents, and was sentenced to 18 months in prison in April 2019. She was released in October that year after partially serving her term, and was deported.

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Vyshinsky, former head of RIA Novosti Ukraine, was arrested by Kiev authorities in May 2018, and faced charges of high treason over alleged involvement in Moscow’s “hybrid information war” against Ukraine. Vyshinsky consistently denied the charges, stating he was merely doing his journalist’s job and covering the ongoing civil conflict in eastern Ukraine. Despite widespread international condemnation of the case against him, the journalist was incarcerated for about year and a half. He was released in late August 2019, in major exchange of detainees, before returning to Russia.

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