Russia has put the investigative journalist Christo Grozev on its “wanted” list, according to the Russian Interior Ministry.
Grozev, who is Bulgarian, is the lead Russia investigator at the journalism group Bellingcat.
Information published on the ministry’s website said he was “wanted under an article of the Criminal Code,” without specifying the exact article.
According to the independent human rights monitor OVD-Info, a criminal case on disseminating “fake news” about the Russian army has been opened against Grozev.
The Russian government adopted a law criminalizing the dissemination of what it calls “deliberately false” information about the Russian armed forces in early March, 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 reported extensively on Russia’s involvement in a number of high-profile international crimes, including the 2014 downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 in eastern Ukraine and the 2018 poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal in the United Kingdom. Moscow has repeatedly denied any responsibility for either attack.
Together with the team of Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny and journalists from CNN and other outlets, Grozev also investigated the poisoning of Navalny in 2020.
He focuses on “security threats, 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 on Monday he didn’t know why he had been added to Russia’s wanted list.
“I have no idea on what grounds the Kremlin has put me on its ‘wanted list,’ thus I cannot provide any comments at this time. In a way it doesn’t matter – for years they’ve made it clear they are scared of our work and would stop at nothing to make it go away,” he said in a Twitter post on Monday.
Putin’s regime has been methodically dismantling free press for years, but the crackdown on independent publications and journalists intensified in late February.
All remaining independent Russian media outlets have been shuttered and online access to the ones operating from abroad has been blocked. Western publications and social media sites have also been banned.
According to OVD-Info, at least 370 people have faced criminal prosecution for anti-war statements and speeches. Dozens of them have fled Russia and have been placed on the wanted list, according to the monitor.