Masked police at Russian opposition magazine: deputy editor

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Russian police, including masked members of the special forces, arrived Thursday at the offices of outspoken opposition magazine The New Times to conduct an investigation, its staff said.

"A delegation from the Moscow police has arrived at our offices," Ilya Barabanov, magazine's deputy editor and one of its best-known reporters said, adding that the visitors included masked special forces officers.

"They said they would conduct an investigation. I don't know what they mean by it," Barabanov said on Russia's popular Echo of Moscow radio.

"The searches have not started yet."

An assistant to the magazine's editor, Yevgenia Albats, confirmed to AFP the visit of the police and said both Albats and Barabanov were unavailable for comment because they were in a meeting with them.

Both Barabanov and Albats' assistant, Darya Agafonova, said the investigation might be linked to an investigation into the magazine's coverage of police abuses.

The New Times has been under investigation for libel after printing several articles earlier this year claiming that OMON riot police were paid to provide security for businesses and private homes, gathered protection money from prostitutes and used Central Asian migrants as slave labour.

As part of the probe, police raided the offices of the magazine in April.

The Interfax news agency quoted an unnamed Moscow police official as saying that the new investigation was "most likely" not connected to the publication of the articles on the riot police because that case had already been forwarded to prosecutors.

Last month Barabanov was awarded the Peter Mackler Award honoring courageous and ethnical journalism by Reporters Without Borders, a group that campaigns for press freedom.

Earlier this week police broke up an opposition protest in Moscow and detained at least 70 activists, while they also detained up to 60 protesters during similar protests in Russia's second city of Saint Petersburg.

© 2010 AFP

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