A small claims court in Moscow has fined the radio station Ekho Moskvy and online editor Vitaly Ruvinsky 200,000 rubles ($2,900) and 60,000 rubles ($865), respectively, for publishing remarks about political analyst Valery Solovey. In a Telegram post, Ekho Moskvy editor-in-chief Alexey Venediktov confirmed the fine and vowed to file an appeal, but did not clarify specifically what comments resulted in the penalty.
A source told the news agency TASS that the fine concerns remarks from Solovey about the spread of the coronavirus in Russia.
In March 2020, complying with orders from Russia’s federal censor, Ekho Moskvy’s online editors unpublished an interview with Valery Solovey where he offered his own estimate of those killed by COVID-19 in Russia, citing figures that were higher than the government’s official numbers.
Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Russian authorities have opened nearly 200 cases against the distribution of supposed “fake news” involving the spread of the disease. A recent report by the “Agora” human rights group warns that law enforcement have used these investigations to target journalists, activists, and opposition politicians.