The chief editor of Russian investigative outlet Proekt Media has revealed that he is now in the United States and has no plans to return to his home country. Roman Badanin also plans to relocate his publication’s staff abroad.
Proekt was added to Russia’s registry of “undesirable” organizations on July 15 and is known for its investigations into hidden wealth among the country’s political elite. According to the General Prosecutor’s Office, the publication “posed a threat to the foundations of the constitutional order and security of the Russian Federation.”
On the same day, several of its journalists, including Badanin, were added to the database of “foreign agents.”
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In an interview with Reuters from New York, Badanin explained that he and his deputy Mikhail Rubin are now in the United States, and plan to continue their work from afar.
“We are trying to evacuate staff – if the staff members agree, of course – to one of the nearby countries,” Badanin said, noting that he’d try to keep the publication functioning as usual.
“The main difference is that a large part of the team will be out of Russia in order to avoid the possibility of any legal and extra-legal action against them.”
According to Russian law, continuing the work of an undesirable organization after the designation could be punished with prison time.
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Last month, Moscow police searched the homes of Badanin, Rubin, and fellow correspondent Maria Zholobova as they worked a potential libel case. The journalists stand accused by Ilya Traber, a wealthy businessman, of slandering Traber in a 2017 documentary, produced when Badanin and Zholobova worked for TV channel Dozhd. The report suggested that the businessman had links to the mafia. If charged and found guilty, they could spend up to two years behind bars.
Proekt has risen in status in recent months, having become well-known for its investigations regarding a woman whom it alleges is the secret daughter of President Vladimir Putin. It also published a report on the real-estate holdings of Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin.
Badanin himself is a former editor-in-chief of Russian Forbes, and later went on to lead the newsroom at the prestigious Moscow daily RBK. After leaving Dozhd in 2017, he moved to the US to study at Stanford University on a paid ten-month journalism fellowship. After returning in 2018, he founded Proekt.
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