Russian Said Good-Bye To Courageous Journalist


Russian opposition and the inhabitants of the city attended the funeral of the independent journalist who died in protest against the totalitarian regime of Putin's state. Commentators compared her action to that of Czech students against the totalitarian Soviet Union.

Putin’s Russia was shocked by another kind of tragedy on Friday when the independent journalist in regional media resorted to self-immolation. But the first information about the causes of such a decision indicated it was not desperation.

“Please blame Russian Federation for my death,” editor-in-chief and founder of the Koza-Press website wrote Ms. Irina Slavina on October 2 on her Facebook. At 3.30 in the afternoon, the city emergency services in Nizhny Novgorod received information about the fire on Gorky Street, one of the main alleys in the city center. The firefighters who came to quench the fire found Irina dead. 

A one Telegram channel posted camera footage of the journalist setting oneself on fire while sitting on the bench. A man who is passing by tries to save her, but she pushes him off while flames are spreading on her clothes.  He is not giving up in his attempt to quench the fire on her, but the fire intensifies, and journalists fell to the ground. A man walks a few feet aside, visibly shocked and trying to call presumably for an ambulance. 

Russian opposition and the city inhabitants attended a funeral despite the fact it takes place at the beginning of the week.

Until Monday evening, the investigators did not want to confirm whether they would release her body to the family. The funeral attended also the city governor who came first to pay respect to journalist and express condolence to her family.  

The day before her death, twelve armed officers and investigators in the bandanas broke into her apartment, opening the door with a gas cutter and crowbar. She was not accused or charged by any court. She was only a witness in the case of an entrepreneur who dared to rent his office for the opposition group hated by Putin.  My husband opened the door, I, being naked, was already dressing under the supervision of an unfamiliar lady, she reported on her Facebook. The investigators did not allow her to call a lawyer and took all of her, her husband, and of her daughter's computers, flash drives, and phones. She concluded her brief report with a statement: I'm fine. 

It was not the first time the regime utilised unjustly excessive measures to force her to close the independent website. She constantly faced harassment from the authorities.

The journalist regularly participated in protest marches against the Putin regime.

“Irina Slavina had annoyed many with her publications. And she often suffered”, wrote Ms. Svetlana Prokofyeva, a Radio Svoboda journalist who narrowly avoided a long-term prison sentence after she was falsely accused by Russian secret service FSB of support for terrorism.

The list of persecution acts against an independent journalist is long. 

Last year, in October, a Nizhny Novgorod court imposed on Slavina a fine of 70 thousand rubles under the article on the so-called disrespect of the authorities. What exactly was that disrespect? She expressed on Facebook a protest against the installation of a monument to Joseph Stalin in the city.

Before that, in March, a court in Nizhny Novgorod fined her with 20 thousand rubles on charges of organising a march in memory of Boris Nemtsov - on February 24. She walked in the city centre with a portrait of a politician who was murdered opposite of the Kremlin in Moscow.

On July 5, 2019, the magistrate's court in Nizhny Novgorod fined Slavina with 5 thousand more rubles, under the article on carrying out the activities of an "undesirable" organization. What activities? She published information on her Facebook about the opposition "Open Russia" forum held in the city in April. 

In June, local investigators launched a case against Slavina, charging her with the dissemination of deliberately false information. The information was neither false nor intended to harm anyone. Her report tried to alert inhabitants whom authorities kept in the dark about the first case of Wuhan virus detected in Kstovo. Local media also chose silence, but Ms. Slavina reported facts on her KozaPress website. 

Local authorities confirmed that it was a case of the virus in the region. Nevertheless, the persecution did not stop. The prosecutor threatened with a fine of up to half a million rubles. 

An unknown slashed the tires of the journalist’s car twice in 2017. The other unknown scattered leaflets with her home address and copies of her Facebook posts encouraging to attack the journalist. In other pamphlets scattered around the city, the authors published her photo next to, the so-called, Islamic State flag with the abbreviation Central Intelligence Agency which for some Russians is a symbol of treason. 

After she lost twice her job due to her insistence on the accuracy of facts and meticulous investigation style, thanks to the help of a few friends, she established her own medium, the KozaPress. She was the founder, Editor in Chief, and journalist in one person but managed to cooperate with independent media, including the prestigious Grani outlet in Germany banned in Russia. 

In Putin’s Russia, rarely the regime finds and punishes guilty of crimes against the opposition even if the evidence is undeniable. It does not look like the investigation into the death of journalist will be different.

On Friday, shocked inhabitants of Nizhny Novgorod organised a silent protest in the city center. Police did not intervene. Since the first moments after the self-immolation, the people spontaneously are laying flowers and lighting candles at the bench where the journalist died.

The governor of the region, appointed by the Kremlin, appeared to be in sync with the inhabitants of the city. 

I sincerely grieve along with those who cannot come to terms with the departure of Irina and the terrible form of leaving that she chose. I realize that any words now will be perceived differently. But this is not important, but what are the lessons and conclusions will be done, wrote the governor, Mr. Gleb Nikitin, on his Instagram.

However, the court-appointed to investigate the causes of the death of an independent journalist utilised the old Soviet method to turn the victim into a mentally ill, imposing the psychological analysis of the journalist’s character.

The self-immolation of Ms. Slavina follows the similar acts of political protests which took place in the previous century, paving a way to freedom for the captivated nations behind the Iron Curtain, emphasised prominent figures of Russian opposition.

The leader and co-founder of the opposition party Yabloko, Mr. Grigory Yavlinsky, compared Ms. Slavina to the two Czech students, Jan Palach and Jan Zajíc. Both men set themselves on fire in 1968 and 1969 against the end of the political changes which could allow limited freedom of expression and public debate in Communist Czechoslovakia if not a military invasion by the Soviet Union and other armies of the Warsaw Pact. 

It is a terrible act of an extreme protest against the endless lies of the state, stated Mr. Yavlinsky.

He provided a complete context in which Ms. Slavina served Russians as an independent journalist that is lawlessness and lack of freedom, persecution, humiliation, unjust searches, electoral fraud, and destruction of the Constitution.

The biggest opposition party leader emphasised that Ms. Irina Slavina protested against injustice in the public life in contemporary Russia that the overwhelming majority prefers to accept with silence.



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