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Russia Frees Journalist From Detention

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

Russian Interior Minister Vladimir Kolokoltsev says investigative journalist Ivan Golunov has been freed from house arrest and authorities are now conducting an internal probe into his detention.

In a statement Tuesday, Kolokoltsev said the police officers involved in detaining the journalist have been suspended.

Kolokoltsev said "results of biological, criminal, fingerprinting, and genetic testing have led to a decision to cease the criminal prosecution of the civilian Ivan Golunov due to a lack of evidence that he took part in committing a crime."

"Today, he will be freed from house arrest, and the charges against him will be cleared," Kolokoltsev statement read.

The document also announced the beginning of an internal probe about the legitimacy of the arrest.

"The materials for an internal investigation [of the Russian police officials] will be transferred from the internal security division of the Internal Affairs Ministry of Russia to the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation for the purpose of evaluating the validity of the actions taken by the police officers who arrested the civilian," the statement said. "They will be temporarily released from their duties during the course of the investigation."

Kolokoltsev also said he petitioning Russian President Vladimir Putin to suspend the officials from their duties until the investigation has been completed.

“I have made the decision to petition the President of the Russian Federation to release from their duties the head of the Moscow Internal Affairs Division of the Russian Internal Affairs Ministry’s Moscow City Branch, Police Major General Andrey Puchkov, and the head of the Division for Control of the Narcotics Trade within the Russian Internal Affairs Ministry Moscow City Branch, Yury Devyatkin.

“I believe that, regardless of their professional affiliation, the rights of any citizen should always be protected,” Kolokoltsev said.

Golunov, an investigative reporter with Latvia-based online news agency Meduza, was arrested earlier this month, accused of attempting to sell a large amount of illegal drugs. His supporters said the charges were politically motivated.

Following his arrest, three leading Russian newspapers -- Vedomosti, Kommersant, and RBK -- publishing identical front pages that questioned the motives behind his detention.

This story originated in VOA's Russian Service.