Russia labels Nobel-winning journalist 'foreign agent'

FILE PHOTO: Veteran Russian rights campaigner Orlov goes on trial for discrediting army

(Reuters) - Russian authorities on Friday designated Nobel Prize-winning journalist Dmitry Muratov as a "foreign agent," a move often aimed at critics of Kremlin policies.

Russian news agencies quoted the Justice Ministry as saying Muratov, editor of the independent Novaya Gazeta newspaper and a co-laureate of the 2021 Nobel peace prize, was one of several Russian nationals added to the list.

So-called foreign agents have been subjected to police searches and other punitive measures. While Muratov is still in Russia, many on the list have left the country since the February 2022 invasion of Ukraine, dubbed a "special military operation" by the Kremlin.

The Justice Ministry said Muratov "created and disseminated material (produced by) foreign agents and used it to spread negative opinions of Russia's foreign and domestic policies on international platforms".

Under Russian law, individuals and organizations receiving funding from abroad can be declared foreign agents, potentially undermining their credibility with the Russian public. Those deemed foreign agents must mark their published work with a disclaimer noting their status.

Novaya Gazeta and Muratov earned a reputation abroad for investigative reporting that was often critical of the Kremlin.

Muratov later put his Nobel medal up for auction, saying the $103.5 million proceeds would be used to aid refugee children from Ukraine.

Novaya Gazeta suspended publication in 2022 in response to legislation imposing harsh penalties for discrediting the Ukraine military operation and Russian soldiers. Many of its journalists have regrouped with a new publication in Latvia.

Among the other Russian nationals placed on the foreign agents list on Friday were another journalist who wrote articles favourable to Ukraine, a comedian opposed to the war and a historian from Chechnya, where Russia crushed insurgents in two post-Soviet wars.

Some prominent dissenters in Russia have been imprisoned, including anti-corruption campaigner Alexei Navalny.

(This story has been corrected to fix the date in paragraph 3)

(Reporting by Reuters, Editing by Ron Popeski and Cynthia Osterman)