News of the Day: 4 May 2021

RFE/RL: A Russian court has dismissed a case against an RFE/RL correspondent who was charged with the distribution of “false information about the coronavirus” over an article she wrote about a lack of ventilators for COVID-19 patients. The lawyer for Tatyana Voltskaya, Leonid Krikun, told RFE/RL that the Gatchino City Court in the northwestern Leningrad region ruled on May 4 that there was no crime committed by the reporter. Investigators initially demanded a criminal case be launched against Voltskaya regarding her article published on RFE/RL’s North.Realities website in April 2020. In the story, Voltskaya reported on a lack of ventilation units at hospitals treating COVID-19 patients in the city of St. Petersburg, citing an unnamed physician. After a local court refused to launch a criminal case, Russia’s Investigative Committee requested an administrative case against Voltskaya that could have seen her fined or spend several days in jail as punishment.

The Moscow Times: A Russian astrologer and yoga instructor said she has been accused of illegal missionary work for organizing celebrations of a major Hindu festival. Yekaterina Kalinkina, 47, faces a fine of 50,000 rubles ($650) for organizing and promoting events marking the festival of Maha Shivratri on social media in March, according to documents she posted Friday. Maha Shivratri, also known as “the great night of Shiva” — the patron god of yoga, meditation and arts — is a widely recognized festival in Hinduism that celebrates “overcoming darkness and ignorance.”

RFE/RL: From the time Eduard Shmonin was a young man, he always wanted to be a gangster. But disillusionment with Russia’s criminal world came quickly for the Sverdlovsk region native after he served two years in prison for burglary in the 1990s. Shmonin, now 50, instead decided to get into journalism — a profession that he quickly determined was inextricable from local battles over money, resources, and influence. The business model he adopted involved digging up dirt on officials and industry players — and then publishing it or withholding it, depending on the bidder. “I understood at the time that the job of a journalist is to get paid for what he doesn’t write,” Shmonin told RFE/RL’s Russian Service, known locally as Radio Svoboda, last year. Now prosecutors have asked a court to sentence Shmonin to 11 years in prison on charges of blackmail and distributing pornography — allegations linked to media operations he ran in Russia’s oil-rich Khanti-Mansi Autonomous District in western Siberia.

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