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Russia Drops Drug Charges Against Journalist Golunov

FILE - Russian journalist Ivan Golunov is seen in Moscow, Russia, Oct. 27, 2018.

Some information from RFE/RL was used in this report.

Russia's interior ministry says authorities have dropped their criminal case against anti-corruption journalist Ivan Golunov and that he will be released from house arrest.

Interior Minister Vladimir Kolokoltsev said Golunov would be freed later on June 11 due to a lack of evidence or any wrongdoing on his part.

Kolokoltsev also said some police officers involved in the case were suspended and that he would ask Russian President Vladimir Putin to dismiss two senior police officers over the arrest of Golunov.

The moves comes hours after Golonuv's lawyers appealed against his pretrial house arrest on a narcotics charge he denies.

Lawyer Sergei Badamshin said on June 11 that Golunov's house arrest was appealed with the Moscow City Court, as Russian celebrities, journalists, activists, and other supporters of the journalist prepared for a march in the capital to call for his release.

Golunov, a well-known investigative reporter with Latvia-based online news agency Meduza, was arrested on June 6, prompting an outcry over what critics see as politically motivated charges.

On June 8, a Moscow court placed Golunov under pretrial house arrest for a period of two months.

Golunov, 36, was charged with attempting to sell a large amount of illegal drugs -- a charge he and his supporters reject as a retaliation by Moscow authorities for his reporting on corruption among officials.

Advocates for Golonuv said illegal drugs and paraphernalia had been planted in his backpack and in his Moscow apartment.

The reporter could have faced up to 20 years in prison if tried and convicted.

Golunov suffered bruises, cuts, a concussion, and a broken rib during or after his arrest.

Golunov's arrest had provoked outrage from the country's media, with three leading non-state newspapers -- Vedomosti, Kommersant, and RBK -- publishing identical front pages that questioned the motives behind the move.

The Paris-based press freedom watchdog Reporters Without Borders also warned that the arrest could mark a "significant escalation in the harassment" of independent media in Russia.

In New York, the Committee to Protect Journalists noted that Russia has "a long history of politically motivated charges against independent reporters."