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Russia9 July 2002

Two journalists prosecuted after questioning President Putin about regional corruption

Legal action was started on 7 July against Olga Cherubina, former editor of the local government paper Nyaryana Vinder, in the Nenets far northern autonomous region, for "abusing her position," after being sacked a week earlier when one of her reporters asked President Vladimir Putin about corruption at a 24 June Kremlin press conference.

The freelance reporter, Alexei Vasilivetsky, had mentioned the involvement of Nenets regional governor Vladimir Butov in corruption. Putin promised he would raise the matter with general state prosecutor Vladimir Ustinov and the next day a warrant was issued for Butov’s arrest from "abusing his position."

In a letter to Ustinov, Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Robert Ménard expressed his concern at the unjustified dismissal of Cherubina and the legal action against her. "If the Russian Federation’s courts have decided to do something about the corruption of the Nenets authorities, it is also their duty to see the sacking and legal action against Cherubina for what it is - an attempt to silence those who talk about Gov. Butov’s embezzlement," he said.

"We ask you to intervene so that the chief editor of Nyaryana Vinder can continue to do her job of informing the public and that the legal action taken against her is dropped."

The paper’s staff said Butov had been trying to remove Cherubina for a long time and had pressed the matter during a session of the local parliament last winter. The paper’s managing editor, Andrei Jdankin, said she had been dismissed because the paper was reporting on the murky administration of the region. The deputy general prosecutor for the Northwestern Region, Vladimir Jubrin, said five criminal investigations into Butov’s activities were under way.

Reporters Without Borders is also concerned about legal action taken against Dina Oyun, editor of the news website Tuva-Online, since she denounced electoral fraud in the small Siberian republic of Tuva, also at the 24 June Kremlin press conference.

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