Moscow makes comments after Russian papers call for inquiry into case of Ivan Golunov
The Kremlin has admitted that mistakes may have been made by police during the arrest of investigative journalist Ivan Golunov on controversial drug-dealing charges, as calls for his release grew louder.
Mistakes can never be ruled out, said Dmitry Peskov, a spokesman for Vladimir Putin. The important thing is to recognise mistakes so that they arent repeated. Some issues need clarification, he said on Monday.
Police initially published a number of photographs that they said showed a drug lab at Golunovs rented flat in Moscow. They were later removed from the interior ministrys website after police officials admitted that the photographs had been taken at a different location and had no relation at all to the charges against the journalist. A small mix-up occurred, a police spokesperson said.
The Kremlin rarely accepts that Russian law enforcement agencies may have acted unprofessionally. Peskovs comments came amid an unprecedented display of solidarity by Russian journalists and cultural figures over the charges against Golunov, which are being widely interpreted as an attempt to silence him and put a stop to his reports into corruption involving high-ranking officials.
Three major Russian newspapers on Monday published almost identical front pages in support of the journalist, who was beaten in custody after being arrested in central Moscow on 6 June as he went to meet a source.
Kommersant, RBK and Vedomosti, the countrys most respected papers, ran covers that read I/We are Ivan Golunov. They also published joint editorials calling for a transparent investigation into the allegations against Golunov, 36, who is under house arrest.
All three of the papers have previously come under pressure from authorities and faced attempts to censor their reporting. Kommersants entire political desk resigned last month in solidarity with two veteran journalists who were dismissed after writing a story about a possible government shakeup. A spokesperson for Alisher Usmanov, the Kremlin-linked businessman who owns Kommersant, said he did not interfere in editorial policy.
The Russian health ministrys leading drug specialist, Yevgeny Bryun, told state TV on Sunday that no traces of drugs had been found in a urine sample provided by Golunov.
Pavel Chikov, the head of the lawyers association Agora, which represents Golunov, published results of tests the journalist has taken to prove his innocence. He said the tests indicated it was unlikely Golunov regularly handles drugs, as police have suggested.
Even journalists employed by state-run media have been speaking out in defence of Golunov, with dozens signing an open letter calling for the charges against him to be dropped.
NTV, a usually Kremlin-loyal TV channel that has carried out smear campaigns against opposition figures in the past, also expressed concern. This is a test for all of us, said the anchor Irada Zeynalova during a weekly news roundup. It depends on us what kind of country this is.