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Annual Prison Census 2013 - Russia

Publisher Committee to Protect Journalists
Publication Date 18 December 2013
Cite as Committee to Protect Journalists, Annual Prison Census 2013 - Russia, 18 December 2013, available at: [accessed 26 October 2016]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Journalists in prison as of December 1, 2013

Russia: 2

Nikolai Yarst, OTR
Imprisoned: May 23, 2013

Traffic police in Sochi detained Yarst, a Sochi correspondent for the public television channel OTR, while he was on his way to meet the head of the Sochi branch of Russia's Investigative Committee, the agency tasked with handling serious crimes in the country, in connection with a story. Local news reports said police arrested him after saying they found drugs in his car, which Yarst denied.

A drug test performed on the journalist immediately after his detention showed no traces of drug use, local reports said. A search of Yarst's home also showed no traces of drugs, according to his lawyer and local journalists.

Yarst was placed under house arrest. He was formally charged on May 31, 2013, with drug possession, drug use, and carrying of narcotics. If convicted, he faces up to 10 years in prison, according to press reports. He was forbidden from receiving visitors, according to a Human Rights Watch report.

Yarst was investigating the case of a local girl, Diana Serdyukova, who was taken to Georgia by her stepfather, against the will of her blood relatives. Yarst was investigating the possible corruption of local officials in the case-specifically, allegations that they had taken bribes and allowed the girl to be taken abroad without her relatives' consent, according to news reports. At the time of his arrest, Yarst was headed to the Investigative Committee agency to see the Serdyukova case files. His report for OTR was never finished.

Yarst's lawyer, Aleksandr Popkov, told CPJ that his client's detention and the official evidence against him were marred by procedural violations. Popkov said Yarst was detained by three officers with Sochi's traffic police, who, according to Russian law, are not authorized to conduct searches. Popkov told Human Rights Watch that his client's case files contain testimony by a "secret witness" who allegedly alerted the traffic police to the presence of powdered narcotics in Yarst's car. But, Popkov said, no security cameras recorded the seizure of narcotics from Yarst, and traffic police testimony initially did not mention a secret witness. Yarst's case file said that at least three different traffic police officers gave different reasons for stopping the journalist's car in the first place, according to his lawyer.

Yarst's lawyer and his friends and supporters believe that his arrest and continued detention are in retaliation for his work on the Serdyukova story, and his investigation of the potential involvement of local officials and police in allowing the girl to allegedly be taken out of Russia illegally.

Before he started worked for OTR in 2012, Yarst was a Sochi correspondent for the Moscow-based channel TV Tsentr.

Sergei Reznik, freelance
Imprisoned: November 26, 2013

Regional authorities in Rostov-on-Don, southern Russia, jailed Reznik immediately after the Pervomaiskiy District Court declared him guilty on charges of insulting a public official, bribery, and deliberately misleading authorities, the regional news website Kavkazsky Uzel reported. The court sentenced him to jail for 18 months. Yuri Kastrubin, Reznik's defense attorney, told Kavkazsky Uzel that the journalist would appeal the verdict.

News reports said Reznik had maintained a personal blog on the popular platform Livejournal and had contributed reporting to regional news outlets, including the website Yuzhnyi Federalnyi. His articles for the website criticized municipal and regional authorities and alleged widespread corruption and abuses.

Authorities filed charges against Reznik in November 2012, saying that an investigation into the blogger had shown that Reznik staged threats he had reported receiving in February 2012 to stop publishing his articles. Officials accused Reznik of misleading them. Authorities also said that the blogger had bribed a car shop mechanic to get an inspection sticker for his vehicle.

Reznik was also charged with insult in connection with a series of articles he posted on his personal blog in which he accused the chairwoman of the Regional Arbitration Court of corruption and nepotism, local and international media reported.

According to the independent Moscow-based newspaper Novaya Gazeta, at the time of his imprisonment, authorities were also investigating two other charges against Reznik related to his reporting on local authorities.

He has denied all charges, according to news reports.

A month before he was sentenced, Reznik was attacked by two unidentified men outside his apartment building. The blogger and his wife were beaten and shot at, according to news reports. Authorities have failed to bring to justice those responsible for the attack.

News reports said Reznik was being held in a regional detention facility in late 2013, but did not offer further details.

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