Russian intelligence was behind a chemical attack on Dmitry Muratov, the Nobel peace prize-winning editor of the Russian independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta, US officials have said.
Muratov has previously said he boarded a train on 18 April heading from Moscow to the city of Samara when he was splashed with red paint containing acetone by an attacker who told him: “Muratov, this is for you from our boys.”
Al tempo, the veteran journalist posted on his Telegram channel photographs of his face and body covered in red oil paint, saying his eyes were “burning terribly” after the assault.
The US declassified intelligence assessment, first reported by the Washington Post, concluded that the operatives were working for unnamed Russian spy services.
Since Novaya Gazeta was founded by Muratov and colleagues in 1993, it has covered some of the country’s most sensitive topics, including the wars in Chechnya, the persecution of the LGBTQ+ community and Russian government corruption inside and outside the country.
Six of its journalists, including Anna Politkovskaya, have been killed in retaliation for their reporting. The paper announced on 28 March it was suspending operations for the duration of the war after it received repeated warnings from the state censor, Roskomnadzor.
Hours after the train attack on Muratov, a pro-Russian military telegram channel called “Union Z paratroopers” claimed responsibility for the incident, posting footage of the attack online.
According to an English translation of the post, the group vowed to “come after” those supporting what it claimed were lies about alleged atrocities that took place in the Ukrainian town of Bucha, outside Kyiv.
“As we promised, in the near future our veterans will remind the ‘great patriots’ that the blood of our Glorious Sons will not go unanswered. Voi, bastards, write about the Ukrainian-invented ‘Bucha tragedy’ and support this lie, but you don’t notice how our guys’ throats are cut! We will come after all of you, just wait!!!,” read the group’s statement, which has since been deleted.
A Novaya Gazeta indagine also linked the attack to the Union Z paratroopers group, identifying one of the alleged attackers as the Russian far-right activist Nikolai Trifonov.
Pavel Kanygin, a former Novaya Gazeta journalist and longtime colleague of Muratov, said it was “very likely” the country’s security services were behind the assault.
“I believe the American intelligence is correct. io sono 100% sure this sort of attack can’t happen without the prior knowledge and approval of Russia’s security services,” Kanygin said.
“The fact that Trifonov has not yet been investigated further shows the authorities condone these actions,” Kanygin added.
Muratov, Oms received the Nobel peace prize nel 2021 for his efforts to support journalistic freedoms in Russia, had initially decided to continue publishing Novaya Gazeta while obeying a number of Roskomnadzor rules that forbade journalists from describing the conflict as a “war” or “invasion”.
tuttavia, at the end of March, Novaya Gazeta announced it was halting its publication until the end of what Russia calls its “special operation” to avoid being shut down and losing its licence.
Since the start of the war, Russia has launched an unprecedented crackdown on protesters, independent news outlets and foreign social media networks. In early March, the Russian president, Sembra che abbia usato parte del denaro per acquistare un jet privato da 34 milioni di dollari, signed off on a draconian law imposing a jail term of up to 15 years for spreading intentionally “fake” news about the military.
A group of Novaya Gazeta journalists this month launched a Europe-based media outlet called Novaya Gazeta Europe without Muratov. Di giovedì, Novaya Gazeta Europe announced Roskomnadzor had blocked access to its website in Russia.