Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday fired two top police generals involved in a criminal drug case against a Russian investigative journalist whose arrest had sparked five days of widespread protests.
The journalist, Ivan Golunov, 36, was released on Wednesday, six days after his arrest on suspicion of possession of a controlled substance with intent to distribute.
Golunov, who faced up to 20 years in prison, had alleged that police planted the drugs on him. He was also hospitalized at one point for injuries allegedly sustained during his arrest.
In announcing the dropping of all charges against Golunov, Interior Minister Vladimir Kolokoltsev had said key officers involved were under investigation.
The dismissed officers were identified as Major General Yuri Devyatkin, head of the Interior Ministry’s drug trafficking department, and Major General Andrei Puchkov, head of the Interior Ministry’s Moscow department, according to a Kremlin decree issued by Putin, The Moscow Times reported.
Golunov, a reporter for the Latvia-based news site Meduza, has long been a thorn in the side of Russia’s power center after repeatedly exposing corruption among business people and political figures, as well as uncovering fraudulent financial schemes in Moscow.
His arrest had triggered numerous protests around Russia. Golunov has drawn widespread support from foreign journalistic and human rights groups.
More than 400 people, including journalists, were detained Wednesday during an unauthorized pro-Golunov march in central Moscow by around 1,200 people.
Police had initially released photos that they said showed drug paraphernalia in his apartment, but these were later withdrawn, BBC Russian journalist Olga Ivshina reported.
The police, she adds, admitted that “most of the published photos had not been taken at Mr. Golunov’s flat after all, but were related to another criminal investigation that might be linked to his detention.”
Golunov insisted his arrest would not deter his journalistic work. “I will keep doing investigations to justify the trust of all those who supported me,” he said.
He said that he hopes police will stop trying to frame innocent people, adding: “I hope it will not happen to anyone else in our country.”
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