Independent Russian journalism persists from Latvia : NPR

Russian independent news media is even now operating from Riga, Latvia. The exile offers challenges to newsgathering and push independence.


Russian President Vladimir Putin has sharply intensified his crackdown on the media because launching the complete-out war in Ukraine. Two American journalists are in detention there, facing what supporters say are trumped-up fees. Journalists who criticize the war risked prolonged prison sentences, yet independent Russian journalism is significantly from useless. It merely moved offshore, as NPR’s Philip Reeves discovered in the course of a journey to Latvia in the Baltics.

KIRILL MARTYNOV: I had two work opportunities in Moscow. I was a university teacher, and I was a journalist. And equally of my position have been wrecked.

PHILIP REEVES, BYLINE: Until finally recently, Kirill Martynov was editor-in-chief of Russia’s oldest independent newspaper, Novaya Gazeta. Then, in February final year, Putin introduced all-out war on Ukraine. Martynov’s life was turned upside down.

MARTYNOV: I was fired from universities for the reason that I mentioned this war with my learners. And Novaya Gazeta was shut down by Russian authorities formally far more than a single yr in the past.

REEVES: Martynov says this intended he faced a very simple selection.

MARTYNOV: I will need to be silent or I will go to prison, or the other possibility, I will do the exact same things but outdoors Russia.

REEVES: He selected the next option and arrived below. This is Riga. It’s the money of Latvia, a tiny Baltic country that was when component of the Soviet Union but is now in NATO. Its authorities strongly supports Ukraine. Here, Martynov runs Novaya Gazeta Europe, an offshoot of his old organization. Listed here, he can publish individuals tales about Russia that would have landed him in jail back household. He’s not alone.

SABINA SILE: (Non-English language spoken).

REEVES: We have arrive to a area specially established as a haven for journalists searching for refuge in this town.

SILE: This is the kitchen area. And below, we have a record of birthdays. We offer espresso and tea and natural vitamins.

REEVES: Sabina Sile is Latvian. She’s co-founder of Riga’s Media Hub, a nonprofit that operates this area.

SILE: This is also the place where by we maintain group events if we are all collecting with our families and children.

REEVES: So significantly, the Hub’s served extra than 500 media personnel and their households. Below, they can accessibility cost-free legal guidance, find out Latvian…

Unidentified Particular person: Breathe in and breathe out.

REEVES: …And decrease the stress with a exercise session. The doing work room is brightly adorned. There are comfortable chairs and flowers and paintings.

SILE: The reason for earning it comfortable and homey is so that folks could truly feel not just physically risk-free but also emotionally.

REEVES: This is crucial, specially for new arrivals.

SILE: A whole lot of them had to go away very swiftly in a make any difference of several hours to pack their luggage and leave. But also, it can be a tough final decision to leave your maybe mothers and fathers at the rear of, not understanding when the following time will be when you see them.

REEVES: Riga’s a captivating metropolis. It has parks and historic churches, cocktail bars and fancy coffee shops. Forests and beach locations are just a quick push absent. Yet arriving Russians sometimes struggle to adapt. Some give up media organizations back dwelling in protest over censorship, only to locate a task shortage in this article. Paying out for accommodation and organizing residency papers is significantly tough, claims Sile. Final winter was tough.

SILE: People today ended up truly, seriously having difficulties. There have been suicide makes an attempt. And so we have been satisfied that none of it was profitable and that we were being in a position to guidance each and every other and get by way of it collectively.

REEVES: Denis Kamalyagin is sitting down at a close by desk.

DENIS KAMALYAGIN: (Non-English language spoken).

REEVES: He’s chief editor of Pskovskaya Guberniya, a smaller unbiased newspaper in Pskov in western Russia. The Kremlin insists journalists simply call its war in Ukraine a particular armed service procedure.

KAMALYAGIN: (Non-English language spoken).

REEVES: “I got out of there so as that I could connect with a war a war,” says Kamalyagin. Nine times just after the war begun, law enforcement commandos seized all the tools from his newspaper headquarters, forcing it to close. A several days afterwards, they raided his house.

KAMALYAGIN: (Non-English language spoken).

REEVES: Kamalyagin suggests he hurriedly fled Russia, carrying only a backpack. His paper’s been in issues before. In 2015, it angered the authorities by revealing Russian paratroopers experienced been killed in the Donbas in japanese Ukraine, even while the Kremlin denied any Russian military services was there. Kamalyagin thinks this time his paper was specific to quit it reporting Russian fatalities due to the fact the all-out invasion of Ukraine. This hasn’t worked. His news portal is covering the tale from here, using a top secret network of anonymous journalists at house. He suggests it truly is trying to keep a running complete of lifeless troopers from his space. For Russian journalists listed here in Latvia, life is substantially safer. They participate in cat and mouse with Russian authorities who block their outlets, forcing them to switch platforms. They also nevertheless experience threats from Moscow.


VYACHESLAV VOLODIN: (Non-English language spoken).

REEVES: Russia’s lower property of Parliament, the Duma, talks of stripping disloyal Russians of house and passports.


VOLODIN: (Non-English language spoken).

REEVES: “These people who hope the Nazi regime in Ukraine will be victorious and not welcome in this article,” claims Speaker Vyacheslav Volodin at a recent hearing.


VOLODIN: (Non-English language spoken).

REEVES: “Those who return to Russia must be despatched to the Gulag,” he states. Again across the border in Latvia, the new arrivals have had a blended reception. The country’s sizable inhabitants of ethnic Russians incorporates Putin supporters. Other Latvians don’t forget the repressive Soviet several years and have a tendency to check out Russians with suspicion. Yet Kirill Martynov of Novaya Gazeta Europe says, in general, there’s been a warm welcome from Latvian authorities.

MARTYNOV: Mainly because they were being beneath Soviet occupation, and they experienced hundreds of folks who lived in exile for many years. And so they understand really crystal clear what does it signify when, you know, when you have major dictatorship in your place and you happen to be pressured to move overseas.

REEVES: Not each and every journalist who’s here to stay clear of prison or even worse again residence is Russian.

ANASTASIYA ZAKHAREVICH: The level of absurdity there is so superior that it’s typically tough for men and women to believe that.

REEVES: Anastasiya Zakharevich is from Belarus, Moscow’s closest European ally. She was detained whilst masking opposition protests in 2020 and used days in custody. She’s now a refugee in Latvia. A several months in the past, her father back residence died out of the blue.

ZAKHAREVICH: I experienced to search at the funerals of my dad on the display of my smartphone. And this is the worst knowledge in the everyday living.

REEVES: Riga’s media exiles hope just one day shortly all this will conclusion.

MARTYNOV: I consider that we will facial area several years or it’s possible many years of this divided Europe and increase of loathe and distrust.

REEVES: Still it truly is tough to be optimistic, suggests Kirill Martynov. Martynov is not absolutely sure he will at any time be in a position to go home. Philip Reeves, NPR News, Riga, Latvia.

SHAPIRO: And if you or someone you know is in disaster, phone or text the 988 Suicide and Disaster Lifeline, just people 3 digits – 988.

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