By Anton Zverev and Andrew Osborn
MOSCOW (Reuters) – A Russian journalist known for investigating corruption among Moscow city officials has been detained by police and accused of drug offences which he denies, his lawyer and employer said on Friday.
The journalist, Ivan Golunov, was detained in central Moscow on Thursday on his way to a meeting with a source and a bag containing drugs was later found in his rucksack, according to his employer, online news portal Meduza. Golunov said the bag did not belong to him.
Another bag containing drugs along with some scales was found in a police search of his apartment, Meduza said.
The journalist, who denies wrongdoing and links his detention with his journalistic activity, faces being charged with the large-scale selling of drugs, Meduza said. The offence carries a jail sentence of between 10 and 20 years.
Golunov, 36, is well known inside Russia for his investigations into graft in the Russian capital. The city’s mayor is Sergei Sobyanin, a close ally of President Vladimir Putin.
Dmitry Djulai, Golunov’s lawyer, told Reuters that he believed police had planted the drugs on his client to frame him, that Golunov had been beaten, and that police had refused to take swabs from his hands or the rucksack or to even take finger nail samples to see if he had been in contact with drugs.
Djulai said the police had refused to call medics in order to catalogue the injuries his client had suffered in police custody.
The Russian investigator handling his case told Reuters he was not immediately able to comment.
Ivan Kolpakov, Meduza’s editor-in-chief, said he was sure Golunov’s detention was work-related.
“I am absolutely 100% convinced that this is linked to Ivan Golunov’s professional activity,” he said.
(Additonal reporting by Maria Tsvetkova; Writing by Andrew Osborn; Editing by Christian Lowe)