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Russian investigative journalists from IStories endure six months of threats, including data breach with addresses and flight details

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Alesia Marokhovskaia and Irina Dolinina, who work as journalists for the independent investigative publication Important Stories (also known as IStories), have been receiving threats from unknown individuals over the past six months, as revealed in a report by the publication.

The threats began on the night of March 3, when a message was sent to IStories website via a feedback form: “May your nits from the streets of (name) and (name) not sleep in peace! Hello to them!” The author (or authors) signed the message with the name “Yevgeny P.” and indicated the following email address: [email protected].

The second threat came on August 24 — again via the feedback form.

This time, the sender made it clear that he was aware of Marokhovskaia's move to another residence:

“Rest assured, you can’t hide from us anywhere. We know your scumbag ran away like a rat in terror, we will find her elsewhere. She’s not anywhere to go and she’ll have to answer for every lie and evil thing she’s said. For every word she’s said. We’ll find her wherever she walks her wheezing dog. None of you can hide anywhere now.”

On September 19, Dolinina and Marokhovskaia planned to travel to the Swedish city of Gothenburg for an international conference for investigative journalists. Five days before they were meant to leave (September 14), they received another message via the feedback form:

“You know who to tell this to: they can’t go to Gothenburg. Not even for a day. It’s known where to look for them. Trust me.”

A similar warning from the same sender came the next day. “Take it seriously. I don’t want to scare you. I want to help. Tickets, hotel — everything is known. These are not just words…” — the letter then listed all the details of the airline and hotel bookings in the names of Marokhovskaia and Dolinina.

“Take it seriously. I don’t want to scare you. I want to help. Tickets, hotel — everything is known. These are not just words: MAROKHOVSKAIA Alesia [...] And on the same flight DOLININA Irina [...] Booking at [...] Listen. Don't come! I want to help.”
“Take it seriously. I don’t want to scare you. I want to help. Tickets, hotel — everything is known. These are not just words: MAROKHOVSKAIA Alesia [...] And on the same flight DOLININA Irina [...] Booking at [...] Listen. Don't come! I want to help.”

It is highly probable that the individuals behind the threats are affiliated with the Russian government, a former member of a European intelligence agency with over 15 years of experience countering Russian and Belarusian intelligence services abroad told IStories. The person (or people) behind these threats seem to have continuous access to flight information of passengers traveling within the European Union, the source noted.

“It could be FSB officers or people associated with them. Often the FSB acts with the hands of local organized crime. Such intimidation tactics are similar to the style of Russian security forces to create pressure and psychologically abuse journalists,” the source suggested.

Several independent Russian journalists have reported facing threats from unknown sources this year.

The Insider journalist Marfa Smirnova previously revealed that she faced continued threats from unidentified individuals since April this year. They used Telegram to send her intimidating messages, warning her to stop writing and producing journalistic materials — including reports. Smirnova received a disturbing wiretap of her family's Moscow apartment, which contained private conversations within the residence. She was also sent a photo of her family members in a car.

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