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Russia Frees Detained Reporter Ivan Golunov in Rare U-Turn After Public Outcry

Russia ordered the release of an investigative journalist whose arrest on drug charges triggered a wave of protests about pressure on the media, in a rare Kremlin reversal in the face of mounting public opposition. “The decision has been made to end the criminal prosecution of Ivan Golunov because of the lack of evidence of his involvement in a crime,” Interior Minister Vladimir Kolokoltsev said Tuesday in an unusual televised statement. “He will be released from house arrest today, the charges are dropped.” Police officers directly involved in the June 6 arrest of the freelance journalist have been suspended, Kolokoltsev said, adding that he’s asked President Vladimir Putin to dismiss several senior officers in Moscow responsible for the investigation. The swift turnabout followed growing anger over Golunov’s detention in recent days, amid complaints he was being framed as retaliation for reports exposing official corruption. As discontent spread through the elite, the Kremlin seemed to soften its line. His case drew support from usually loyal cultural figures and some pro-government politicians, as well as sympathetic coverage in state media. Golunov denied the charges, which carried a sentence of up to 20 years, and accused police officers of planting narcotics on him. “The Kremlin slipped on a banana peel here, but reacted quickly under pressure,” said Gleb Pavlovsky, a former Kremlin aide who’s often critical of the authorities. “This was a failure in the system, but it would be mistaken to think it’s getting wobbly.” The Kremlin welcomed the decision to drop the charges, spokesman Dmitry Peskov wrote in a text message. But he warned, “We oppose making any generalizations based on this specific case.” The decision to abandon the prosecution -- exceedingly rare in a country where the courts acquit in less than 1% of cases - comes ahead of Putin’s annual “direct line” call-in with Russians next week, where he risked being confronted with questions about the scandal. It was announced on the eve of the annual Russia Day holiday on Wednesday, when Golunov’s supporters were planning a demonstration in Moscow. It’s the second time in a month that public pressure has forced the authorities to back down. In Yekaterinburg, officials abandoned plans in May to build a church in a popular park after four nights of mass protests that prompted Putin to intervene and call for a rethink. The Kremlin may benefit from the perception that it acted swiftly to curb abuses by lower-ranking officials, said Alexei Mukhin, head of the Moscow-based Center for Political Information. Since Golunov hadn’t been investigating corruption right at the top, “it wasn’t such a difficult decision to take,” he said. At the same time, Kremlin critics remain under pressure. Leonid Volkov, an associate of opposition leader Alexey Navalny, received an additional 15-day sentence on Monday for organizing an unauthorized rally last year, after just having served a 20-day prison term for the same offense. Subscribe to our YouTube channel: https://bit.ly/2TwO8Gm TICTOC ON SOCIAL: Follow TicToc on Twitter: https://twitter.com/tictoc Like TicToc on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/tictoc Follow TicToc on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/tictoc Watch all of TicToc’s videos: https://www.tictoc.video/ Listen to TicToc’s podcast: https://apple.co/2D3Vta7 Subscribe to our newsletter: https://bit.ly/2FJ0oQZ TicToc by Bloomberg is global news for the life you lead. We are a 24/7 news network that covers breaking news, politics, technology, business and entertainment stories from around the globe, supported by a network of Bloomberg’s 2,700 journalists across 120 countries

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