Russian outcry as journalists held during Ilya Azar protest

Photojournalist Viktoria Ivleva is led away by police outside the interior ministry in Moscow Image copyright AFP
Image caption Photojournalist Viktoria Ivleva was among the journalists detained by police

A group of well-known Russian journalists were arrested in Moscow on Thursday as they took part in single-person protests over a 15-day jail term handed down to a colleague.

Council of Europe Rights Commissioner Dunja Mijatovic said she was greatly dismayed and called for their release.

The journalists were taking part in single pickets – the only protest allowed without authorities’ approval.

They accused police of using the Covid-19 outbreak to crack down on activists.

The journalists detained mostly work for independent media outlets. Most have now been released, but charged with various offences.

Why did the protests begin?

Ilya Azar, a journalist and councillor who works for opposition newspaper Novaya Gazeta, was arrested on Tuesday in a protest against the detention of an ex-policeman who campaigns against police corruption. Azar was given 15 days in jail on Thursday for breaking protest laws.

Fellow journalists stood separately outside the interior ministry before police intervened.

Among those held were Ekho Moskvy radio journalists Alexander Plyushchev and Tatyana Felgengauer, who was stabbed in the neck by an attacker in her newsroom in 2017.

Plyushchev said police had told them that all public events were banned during the pandemic.

TV presenter Mikhail Fishman, and editors Sergei Smirnov and Anastasia Lotareva were also detained, as were photojournalist Viktoria Ivleva and journalist Ilya Vasyunin, reports said.

Smirnov posted a photo of himself and Felgengauer in police custody, saying “hello everyone”.