Russian Cops Arrest Journalist Who Exposed Spies Involved in MH-17 Downing

Authorities raided Roman Dobrokhotov's house and seized his devices after the Russian government labeled his newspaper as a "foreign agent."
roman-Dobrokhotov
A picture from 

Dobrokhotov's other arrest in 2006. 

(Image: DENIS SINYAKOV/AFP via Getty Images)

Police in Russia have raided the home of Roman Dobrokhotov, a well-known investigative journalist whose work helped identify Russian spies he said were involved in downing of Malaysian Airlines flight 17 and the attempted assasination of Sergei Skripal, according to Bellingcat, one of the organizations that worked with Dobrokhotov, as well as several news reports.

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On July 17, 2014, militants shot down a Malaysian Airlines flight from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, killing all the 298 people on board. In a series of investigations, Bellingcat and Dobrokhotov identified high-ranking officers of Russia's military spy agency GRU and accused them of being directly involved in the incident. The investigation relied on open source data that allowed the journalists to name the specific officers and publish their military history. 

Dobrokhotov founded and works for The Insider, an independent investigative newspaper that was added last week to a list of "foreign agents" by Russian authorities, a strategy to undermine the paper's credibility and make it effectively illegal. Dobrokhotov partnered on several stories with Bellingcat, an independent media outlet that specializes in open source investigations. 

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On Wednesday morning Dobrokhotov tweeted that police were knocking on his door. 

"A lawyer would not hurt," he tweeted, according to an online translation. 

Hours later, Bellingcat tweeted that his house had been raided, along with his parent's home. 

Eliot Higgins, the founder of Bellingcat, said in an email that "From what we understand his home and the home of his parents were raided this morning, all his devices were confiscated (including his childrens' devices), and he was taken way for questioning and we've not heard from him since."

"Roman had planned to travel out of Russia today to do some work with Bellingcat team members, but his passport was seized along with his devices, so we don't know if he'll be able to travel now," Higgins told Motherboard in the email. "Currently we're waiting for him to be released, but we're going to assume all his devices have been compromised at this point, given the Russian authorities' tendency to add bugging devices to devices they seize from journalists."

Higgins said that the official reason for the raid is a criminal complaint made by "MH17 truther" Max van der Werff against Roman Dobrokhotov, following a joint investigation by Bellingcat and Dobrokhotov showing connection between van der Werff and the GRU. 

Aric Toler, a journalist who works at Bellingcat, reacted on Twitter saying "Putin is doing a speedrun of early Brezhnev-era repressions."

The Russian embassy in Washington D.C. did not immediately respond to a request for comment.