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4 Oct, 2021 15:57

Missing reporter who vanished from Moscow turns up in Belarusian prison, as Kremlin hits out over Minsk’s ban on Russian newspaper

Missing reporter who vanished from Moscow turns up in Belarusian prison, as Kremlin hits out over Minsk’s ban on Russian newspaper

A reporter for one of Russia’s best-read news outlets has been detained and is being held by authorities in Belarus. While details of the arrest are unclear, his editors at Komsomolskaya Pravda claim he was abducted in Moscow.

Over the weekend, Gennady Mozheiko’s mother told journalists her son was being held in an isolation cell in Minsk. Mozheiko, a Belarusian national working for the local branch of the paper had been staying at a hotel in the Russian capital when his apartment back home was raided by police on charges of incitement to hatred and insulting a government official.

Komsomolskaya Pravda reported that its correspondent had been detained in Moscow. “Nobody tells us anything and we’re asking everyone,” the tabloid’s editor-in-chief Vladimir Sungorkin said. “We expect this from Minsk, but we can’t get any confirmation from Moscow.”

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The Kremlin has since denied any involvement in Mozheiko’s detention, with President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, refusing to rule out the possibility that he had been captured and taken abroad. “We do not have any reliable information about where the arrest of the journalist took place,” he said. “We simply do not know.”

Peskov also bluntly stated that "there is no feeling, right now, that our position is being heard in Minsk." He confirmed that Putin himself was aware of the situation around the journalist, outlining that such actions against the press should not be approved, but the Kremlin does not know the details. 

At the same time, Peskov explained that, because Mozheiko is a Belarusian citizen, Moscow had no rights to request consular access. “We don’t have the possibility of making inquiries through our diplomatic mission or to protect his interests,” the Kremlin press secretary said.

He added that the Kremlin has clearly outlined its position on the banning of Komsomolskaya Pravda in Belarus and that it expects the restrictions to be lifted promptly. 

Last month, IT consultant Andrey Zeltser opened fire on security agents when they attempted to raid his apartment in Minsk, killing KGB officer Dmitry Fedosyuk before being shot dead himself. The Belarusian government has since declared him to have been a terrorist, and arrested dozens of people over their social media comments in the aftermath of the incident, which comes after months of the authorities cracking down on activists and supporters of the opposition.

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In the days that followed, Mozheiko published an interview in Komsomolskaya Pravda with a school classmate of Zeltser, who described Zeltser as having always stood up for himself and claiming his political views were not well known. The next day, Belarus’ Ministry of Information ordered Komsomolskaya Pravda to be blocked in the country.

Moscow has since expressed concern over the step, with both Peskov and Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova calling for the decision to be reversed.

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