Independent Newspaper Editor Arrested in Russia

Alexander Andronyuk.  Source: kommersant.ruThe editor-in-chief of an independent newspaper in the city of Arzamas, some 400 kilometers (250 miles) east of Moscow, has been arrested under suspicion of extorting a local gypsum factory into subscribing to his newspaper.  Colleagues believe that the charges against Alexander Andronyuk and the weekly Arzamasskie Vesti newspaper are politically motivated, the online newspaper reports.

“The  editor-in-chief  was  trying to coerce the head of an Arzamas enterprise into concluding a subscription contract with his newspaper in exchange  for  not  disseminating  information compromising his business reputation,” local police told the Interfax news agency.

Andronyuk’s wife Natalya said her husband had travelled to the Dekor-1 gypsum plant on July 1st to work out a subscription deal for 250 copies of the newspaper.  Police arrested him as he arrived to the factory.

Anatoly Chernyagin, Andronyuk’s deputy, said the newspaper had held close business relations with the factory for several years.  Chernyagin said the editor would never have threatened the plant.

“These criminal proceedings are linked exclusively with the newspaper’s socio-political stance,” Chernyagin said.

The deputy editor added there had been no talk of publishing any critical materials concerning the gypsum factory.  A contract for 250 subscriptions would only have netted the paper some 625 rubles ($20 or €14) per week.

Andronyuk is currently awaiting a court date in a Nizhny Novgorod pre-trial detention center.

Arzamasskie Vesti, which has a weekly print run of four to five thousand copies, is well known in the city for its exposés on local officials and businessmen.  The paper was the first to report on a scandal involving local United Russia party boss Mikhail Buzin, who was allegedly involved in a real estate scheme.  In 2006, United Civil Front leader Garry Kasparov awarded the paper with a certificate for its work, in a regional independent press competition called “The Other Word.”