Press Freedom in Russia
Putin Gets His Scalps

One of Russia’s most influential privately held business media outlets, RBC, announced today that its top editorial talent was being shown the door. RBC’s editor-in-chief Elizaveta Osetinskaya, its executive editor Roman Badanin, and the editor-in-chief of the RBC newspaper Maxim Solyus would no longer be employed by the company, RBC’s general director Nikolai Molibog announced in a dryly worded press release posted on RBC’s site:

We have been discussing how to further develop RBC, and have not been able to reach a consensus on several important issues. So we have decided to part ways. I want to thank Elizaveta, Roman, and Maxim for their work and their contribution to the development of the company.

Sources inside RBC said that Osetinskaya, who had a scheduled sabbatical coming up, and Badanin, who was in charge of most of the company’s investigative reporting, left willingly, while Solyus had to be fired.

Our new contributor Karina Orlova was on top of this developing story earlier this week. RBC is said to have infuriated Vladimir Putin last year, when they broke several stories on the secret wealth and connections that have propelled his younger daughter’s academic career. RBC was also at the forefront of ferreting out and publicizing the offshore schemes being used by various high-ranking Russian officials after the initial Panama Papers stories were published in the Western press. For their efforts, in mid-April the Kremlin raided the offices of Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov’s holding company, which has a controlling stake in RBC.

When the Panama Papers archives were opened to the public earlier this week, RBC found an additional 6,285 Russians with offshore holdings. But in writing their story, RBC’s editors scrupulously (and implausibly) reported that the list merely contained people with the same names as people very close to Putin—”namesakes.”

“All the careful, clever wording of articles in the world is unlikely to help once you are in Putin’s crosshairs,” Karina wrote in her post on Wednesday. Now, two days later, RBC’s editors have been made an example of, even as a criminal investigation into allegations of shareholder fraud brought against the company earlier this week is set to continue.

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