Belarus ‘abducts pro-Kremlin journalist in Moscow’ risking the wrath of Vladimir Putin

, Belarus ‘abducts pro-Kremlin journalist in Moscow’ risking the wrath of Vladimir Putin, The Today News USA

A journalist from Russian tabloid Komsomolskaya Pravda – one of Putin’s preferred newspapers – has been abducted by Belarusian authorities.

The newspaper alleged on Tuesday that reporter Gennady Mozheiko, a Belarusian citizen who had gone missing in Moscow earlier this month, was kidnapped and taken across the border to Minsk after he wrote an article about a controversial Belarusian KGB operation.  

A statement released by the newspaper said Belarusian authorities had charged Mozheiko with ‘inciting racial, ethnic, religious or other social hostility’ and ‘insulting a representative of the authorities’, for which he could face over a decade in prison.

The charges come after Mozheiko wrote an article praising Belarusian opposition activist Andrei Zeltser, who was killed by a Belarusian KGB officer during a raid on his home in Minsk in September.

Mozeiko’s arrest sees him join a list of dozens of journalists either awaiting trial or already behind bars for criticising the regime of Belarusian president and autocrat Alexander Lukashenko, who has been in power since 1994.

Lukashenko’s persecution of the pro-Kremlin journalist risks severing his ties with one of his only remaining allies in Vladimir Putin.

The Belarusian leader’s brutal crackdown on mass protests against his presidency has been condemned by heads of state internationally.

, Belarus ‘abducts pro-Kremlin journalist in Moscow’ risking the wrath of Vladimir Putin, The Today News USA

, Belarus ‘abducts pro-Kremlin journalist in Moscow’ risking the wrath of Vladimir Putin, The Today News USA

Gennady Mozheiko, a Belarusian citizen who had gone missing in Moscow earlier this month, was allegedly  kidnapped and taken across the border after he wrote an article about a controversial Belarusian KGB operation

, Belarus ‘abducts pro-Kremlin journalist in Moscow’ risking the wrath of Vladimir Putin, The Today News USA

, Belarus ‘abducts pro-Kremlin journalist in Moscow’ risking the wrath of Vladimir Putin, The Today News USA

, Belarus ‘abducts pro-Kremlin journalist in Moscow’ risking the wrath of Vladimir Putin, The Today News USA

, Belarus ‘abducts pro-Kremlin journalist in Moscow’ risking the wrath of Vladimir Putin, The Today News USA

Belarusian President Lukashenko’s persecution of the pro-Kremlin journalist risks severing his ties with one of his only remaining allies in Vladimir Putin. The Belarusian leader’s brutal crackdown on mass protests against his presidency has been condemned by heads of state internationally

Komsomolskaya Pravda came under pressure last week from Belarusian authorities after it ran a story about a shootout in an apartment in Minsk, the capital of Belarus, during which Andrei Zeltser and a KGB officer were killed.

Belarusian authorities reported the shootout last Tuesday, describing Zeltser as ‘an especially dangerous criminal’ who opened fire on security officers after they showed up at his apartment looking for ‘individuals involved in terrorist activities.’

Meanwhile, Komsomolskaya Pravda, who shut down its branch in Belarus in response to its reporter’s arrest after the Ministry of Information blocked access to its website, maintains Zeltser was simply an opposition activist and IT worker described by Mozheiko as ‘a very good man’.

Zeltser worked for Pennsylvania-based firm EPAM Systems.

, Belarus ‘abducts pro-Kremlin journalist in Moscow’ risking the wrath of Vladimir Putin, The Today News USA

The newspaper’s editor-in-chief Vladimir Sungorkin labelled his reporter’s arrest as ‘a big strategic mistake’, while Artyom Shraibman, a Belarusian political analyst, said Lukashenko ‘has harmed relations with one of Russia’s most conservative parts of the media landscape and their Kremlin supervisors.’  

, Belarus ‘abducts pro-Kremlin journalist in Moscow’ risking the wrath of Vladimir Putin, The Today News USA

, Belarus ‘abducts pro-Kremlin journalist in Moscow’ risking the wrath of Vladimir Putin, The Today News USA

Kremlin press secretary Dmitry Peskov said that Mozheiko ‘is not a citizen of Russia, therefore Moscow has no legal grounds to protect his interests’, but added that the Kremlin hoped his detention ‘isn’t related to his work as a journalist.’

, Belarus ‘abducts pro-Kremlin journalist in Moscow’ risking the wrath of Vladimir Putin, The Today News USA

, Belarus ‘abducts pro-Kremlin journalist in Moscow’ risking the wrath of Vladimir Putin, The Today News USA

Andrei Zeltser, who worked for US firm EPAM Systems, resisted arrest during a raid in Minsk and opened fire on the officers, killing one of them, according to the KGB

, Belarus ‘abducts pro-Kremlin journalist in Moscow’ risking the wrath of Vladimir Putin, The Today News USA

, Belarus ‘abducts pro-Kremlin journalist in Moscow’ risking the wrath of Vladimir Putin, The Today News USA

Officers stand outside an apartment in Minsk in preparation for a raid amid a democracy crackdown

Belarusian authorities claimed they only arrested Mozheiko, after he was ‘expelled’ from Russia and returned across the border, but the pro-Kremlin Komsomolskaya Pravda said their reporter disappeared in Moscow and was not formally expelled. 

Russian news agency Tass reported earlier this week that Mozheiko is being held at a detention centre in Zhodino awaiting trial.

Kremlin press secretary Dmitry Peskov said that Mozheiko ‘is not a citizen of Russia, therefore Moscow has no legal grounds to protect his interests’, but added that the Kremlin hoped his detention ‘isn’t related to his work as a journalist.’

A spokesman from Russia’s foreign ministry later commented that Moscow is operating under the assumption ‘that the rights of journalists will be respected in accordance with generally accepted international norms.’

The streets of Minsk saw huge protests last year after Lukashenko began a sixth term following the August 2020 presidential election that the opposition and the West have denounced as a sham.

Lukashenko´s government responded to the protests with a violent crackdown, arresting more than 35,000 people and badly beating thousands of them.

Mass arrests also followed in the wake of Andrei Zeltser’s death, when Belarusian authorities detained around 120 people who challenged the official narrative surrounding the incident, according to human rights group Viasna. 

After the disputed presidential election last year, authorities in Belarus shut down the biggest independent media outlets, blocked access to popular news sites and targeted journalists with raids and detentions.