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8 Dec, 2023 19:46

Ex-US-state-run media editor put on Russian wanted list

Masha Gessen faces arrest in Moscow
Ex-US-state-run media editor put on Russian wanted list

The Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs has issued a warrant for Maria ‘Masha’ Gessen, the former head of US-state-run media network Radio Liberty in Moscow, the media outlet RBK reported on Friday, citing the ministry’s electronic database.

The database states that Gessen is wanted for violating an article of the Russian Criminal Code, without specifying which one.

The 56-year-old has been an outspoken LGBTQ advocate. The Russian Supreme Court banned the “international LGBT public movement” as an extremist organization last week.

Another outlet, however, suggested that Gessen may have been charged for “spreading fake news” about the Russian military. In September, the Telegram channel Shot reported that police were investigating Gessen for her interview with Yuri Dud – designated as a foreign agent – in which she accused the army of “war crimes” in the Kiev suburb of Bucha. 

Gessen was born in Moscow in 1967 and emigrated to the US in 1981, as part of a program for Jewish families. She returned to her homeland in the 1990s as a journalist, working as a writer and editor for multiple magazines. She also authored a book critical of President Vladimir Putin, called ‘The Man Without a Face’.

In 2012, she was appointed head of the Russian service of RFE/RL an outlet funded and controlled by the US government (currently part of the US Agency for Global Media). Gessen notoriously fired all the online editorial staff and quit six months later. She left Russia the following year, finding work at The New Yorker magazine.

In a 2021 interview with Democracy Now!, Gessen claimed that Russians were reluctant to get the Covid-19 vaccine “because of a general culture of a lack of respect for human life,” which was “characteristic of this particular government.”

Gessen also sat on the board of PEN America – a group “at the intersection of literature and human rights” – until May this year, when she resigned after a dispute related to the Ukraine conflict. She was supposed to host a panel featuring two liberal Russian authors at the World Voices Festival, but they ended up disinvited after two Ukrainians – who were on a different panel – refused to participate in the festival if any Russians whatsoever were involved.