Two Russian journalists appear to have published at least 30 articles on Monday on a pro-Kremlin news site, lenta.ru, criticizing Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine and his government’s crackdown on criticism.
CNN reviewed the stories — which were almost immediately taken down — some related to the 77th anniversary of the Soviet Union’s defeat by Nazi Germany, others criticizing the Russian leader for using VE Day to justify its bloody assault on Ukraine.
Journalists Egor Polyakov and Alexandra Miroshnikova made several claims in their articles, including that Russian defense officials were ‘lying to their relatives’ about those killed in the sinking of the Navy’s Black Sea Fleet flagship Russian, Moskva, and accused Putin of having launched one of the “bloodiest wars”. of the 21st century.”
“Putin and his circle are doomed to face court after the end of the war,” Polyakov and Miroshnikova posted on lenta.ru. “Putin and his associates will not be able to justify themselves or flee after losing this war.”
Polyakov and Miroshnikova are both business editors of lenta.ru, a major pro-Kremlin Russian news site. The outlet’s parent company was recently taken over by Russia’s Sberbank, which is under US sanctions for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
CNN contacted the two reporters and lenta.ru for comment, but did not immediately receive a response.
Russia’s parliament passed a law in early March criminalizing what it sees as lies about Russia’s war in Ukraine. Violating this law can result in a fine of 1.5 million rubles (about $21,467) or up to 15 years in prison. Putin and state media still refer to Ukraine’s large-scale ground war as a “special operation”.
The independent Russian news site Mediazone published what it called a statement by Polyakov and Miroshnikova after the articles appeared.
“Putin is a paranoid dictator,” they reportedly said. “Putin must go. He started a senseless war and drove Russia into the abyss.
Polyakov and Miroshnikova not only publicly rejected the government line on the invasion, but accused Putin of lying about his intentions in Ukraine from the start.
Putin repeatedly lied about his plans for Russia in Ukraine, first naming one goal and then another completely different one.”
They cited Putin’s call for a “liberation of Donbass”, “denazification” and “demilitarization of Ukraine”, as examples of what they describe as hasty justifications for unnecessary war.
One of the articles in the duo’s Victory Day series focused on what they described as the Russian military lying to the families of sailors who died on the flagship Moskva. CNN previously reported that anxious Russian relatives were scrambling for information on the fate of sailors aboard the ship which was sunk by two Ukrainian missiles sunk last month.
The article claimed that the Russian Navy may have recirculated old footage of the Moskva’s crew to suggest that more sailors got off the ship unharmed than actually did.
“The video of Black Sea Fleet leaders and crew members that the Ministry of Defense released after the tragedy could have been archived since a relative of a missing crew member actually recognized in the video itself.”
CNN could not independently confirm these claims.
Each article on lenta.ru began with the same urgent appeal under the title.
Disclaimer: This material is not state-approved, therefore, the Presidential Administration will remove it… In other words: SCREEN urgently or it is removed. »
The duo also appeared to log out of lenta.ru saying, “We are looking for work, lawyers and probably, political asylum!”
“Don’t be afraid, don’t be quiet,” they continued in an apparent call to action. “Resist! You are not one, you are many! The future belongs to you!… Peace to Ukraine!”
Reports critical of the government in Russian media are rare, especially since the start of the war in Ukraine in February. The latest major journalistic show of dissent from state media came when longtime Russian TV editor Marina Ovsyannikova held up an anti-war placard during a live broadcast on Russian channel Channel 1 in March. She was arrested and fined 30,000 rubles.
Ovsyannikova is now reporting for German media from Russia and Ukraine