The Head of the Rus' Sidyashchaya (‘Rus' in Jail’) Foundation, Olga Romanova, filed a complaint to the Prosecutor General, Igor Krasnov, asking him to check the initiation of a criminal case on fake news about the spread of coronavirus in a colony of Veliky Novgorod. Human rights activists wanted to discipline state TV channels that had allegedly received the criminal case files. The Head of Rus' Sidyashchaya announced this on Facebook on April 15.
The Head of Rus' Sidyashchaya, Olga Romanova, asked Igor Krasnov to do four things:
- Cancel the initiation of criminal proceedings on fake news;
- Run a check and interrogate Romanova about the circumstances of posting news about the colony in Novgorod;
- Check the transfer of the criminal case materials, which led them to the conclusion that the criminal case had been allegedly initiated against Rus' Sidyashchaya, to the media;
- Transfer the criminal case from the Investigative Committee to the FSB.
Romanova said that nothing had ever been posted on the foundation's website about an outbreak of coronavirus in the colony in Novgorod. On April 9, she published news about a large number of cases and a single thermometer for everyone in the colony of the village of Toporok. This news was unpublished after the check.
Olga Romanova drew attention to the fact that after the release on the website of the Novgorod IC, first regional and then federal media had concluded that investigators had been suspecting the very Rus' Sidyashchaya of disseminating the fake news. Romanova said that her lawyers wanted to sue TV channels that had designated her foundation as a distributor of fake news about the spread of the virus.
The Head of the Legal Department of Rus' Sidyashchaya, Alexey Fedyarov, drew attention to the fact that no one had shown a screenshot of the fake news which had been allegedly distributed on the foundation's website.
Amid the coronavirus pandemic, Russian authorities have toughened penalties for the dissemination of fake news about the virus. On April 14, the criminal article for fake news was used as a reason to pat down Vladimir Vorontsov, the founder of the Police Ombudsman Project. A special ops unit broke into his house without a search-warrant, although he is named as a witness in the criminal case.