Sunday, August 20, 2017

Ura.ru head accused of extortion

Aksana Panova, of the popular news agency Ura.ru, has been charged with extortion in connection with alleged "information attacks" on organizations and individuals, according to the regional investigations department.

Ura.ru confirmed the report on its Twitter account.

Extortion is punishable with a prison term of up to 15 years under Russian law, RIA Novosti reports.

"The questioning is over. Today, in the presence of her lawyers, Panova was charged with committing a crime that falls under the... article 163 of the Russian Criminal Code, which is extortion. [She was charged with] one count," Tatyana Vasilyeva said, according to RIA Novosti.

The news agency is suspected of launching "information attacks" and then holding the information hostage in exchange for money. The agency denied the charges.

Panova is suspected of extorting money from Anton Stulikov, the head of the local TV channel, according to Vasilyeva. Panova was released after signing a written pledge not to leave the city.

Panova co-owns Ura.ru with the Austrian company BF TEN Holding. It was established in 2006 and is the most cited regional news agency in the key industrial region of the Urals. The agency is known for taking on the local authorities, including a succession of governors, prosecutors and police chiefs. The agency also has accused law enforcement agencies of harassing local businesses, RIA Novosti reports.

Ura.ru supported Yevgeny Roizman, the former federal legislator behind the controversial City Without Drugs foundation, which is currently under investigation for crimes committed at its facilities.

The state officially warned Ura.ru over extremist comments left on the site by users in 2008. Panova sued mobile operator MTS in August, saying that the company let the police wiretap her phone conversations without a court order.