Russia has put investigative journalist Christo Grozev on its “wanted” list, according to the Russian Interior Ministry.
Grozev, who is Bulgarian, is the lead Russia researcher for the Bellingcat journalism group.
Information posted on the ministry’s website said he was “wanted under an article of the Penal Code,” without specifying the exact article.
According to the independent human rights monitor OVD-Info, a criminal case for spreading “fake news” about the Russian military has been opened against Grozev.
The Russian government adopted a law in early March that criminalizes the dissemination of what it calls “deliberately false” information about the Russian armed forces, just days after Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered a full-scale invasion of Ukraine. The maximum penalty under the law is 15 years in prison.
Grozev has widely reported on Russia’s involvement in a number of high-profile international crimes, including the 2014 downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over eastern Ukraine and the 2018 poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal in the United Kingdom. Moscow has repeatedly denied any responsibility for any of the attacks.
Along with Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny’s team and reporters from CNN and other media outlets, Grozev also investigated the 2020 poisoning of Navalny.
It focuses on “threats to security, extraterritorial clandestine operations and the weaponization of information,” according to Bellingcat’s website.
Since the start of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February, Grozev has been using open-source digital tools to document war crimes and other atrocities committed during the conflict.
Grozev said Monday that he did not know why he had been added to Russia’s most wanted list.
“I have no idea for what reasons the Kremlin has put me on their ‘wanted list’, so I can’t comment at this time. In a way it doesn’t matter – they’ve made it clear for years that they have fear for our jobs and that they would stop at nothing to make it go away,” he said in a post on Twitter on Monday.
The Putin regime has been methodically dismantling the free press for years, but the crackdown on independent publications and journalists intensified in late February.
All remaining independent Russian media outlets have been shut down, and online access to those operating from abroad has been blocked. Western publications and social media have also been banned.
According to OVD-Info, at least 370 people have been prosecuted for statements and speeches against the war. Dozens of them have fled Russia and have been put on the wanted list, according to the monitor.