The International Press Institute (IPI), a global network of editors, media executives and leading journalists for press freedom, today condemned a raid by security forces against one of Russia’s leading investigative journalists, Roman Anin, and called on Russian authorities to immediately halt their harassment of him.

On April 9, the home of Amin, the award-winning editor-in-chief of the investigative iStories outlet and one of the Russian journalists involved in the Panama Papers, was searched for seven hours by agents from the Federal Security Service (FSB). His electronic devices and some documents were seized and the office of iStories was later searched.

“It is abundantly clear that the raid and later interrogation against Roman Anin is a retaliatory act of intimidation against him and his newsroom over their investigative reporting into Kremlin corruption and those close to President Putin”, IPI Deputy Director Scott Griffen said. “Security agents appear to have dragged up an old lawsuit as an excuse for raiding Anin’s home and interrogating him.

“We join with investigative journalists and groups around the world in calling on Russian authorities to immediately halt this campaign of pressure and return the devices and materials confiscated from Anin. European leaders should condemn this clear act of intimidation and demand that the Kremlin and its security services stop their attacks on press freedom. We will continue to closely monitor this case closely over the coming weeks.”

Following the raid on Friday, Anin was taken to a police station for the night to be interrogated but refused to answer questions.

The raid is believed to be linked, at least on the surface, to a 2016 investigation published by Anin in the newspaper Novaya Gazeta that focused on Igor Sechin, a close ally of Putin.

In the article, entitled “The Secret of Princess Olga”, Anin reported about the wealth of Sechin’s then wife, who had allegedly been using a 100-million-dollar super yacht. After the article was published, Sechin filed a privacy violation case against the newspaper saying it had harmed his reputation.

Dmitry Velikovsky, a journalist at iStories, told IPI that since then they hadn’t heard anything further about the case. There were no developments until the end of March this year, when the investigation was renewed and Anin was named as a witness. He has not been charged as a suspect.

On April 12, Anin was interrogated for around an hour and half, Velikovsky said, adding that he suspects the home search and interrogations have nothing to do with the 2016 article but rather Anin’s more recent articles. “Five years have passed and no one has been bothered and then suddenly out of the blue, they opened the case again. There is no logic in that”, he said.

Sofia Rusova, a board member of the Journalists’ and Media Workers’ Union (JMWU), also told IPI that the authorities were using the 2016 case to intimidate Anin and search his devices and documents. “It’s a really common situation: authorities can tell you are a witness and they can come at your home and search this home and seize all the equipment and if journalists have no computer, they can’t work”, she said.

Both Rusova and Valikovsky told IPI that so far it is impossible to say what is the actual reason behind the interrogations and what will happen next in the case. In the worst-case scenario Anin could be sentenced up to four years in prison, Rusova said. “It’s really serious, but probably it’s about the pressure for the moment.”

Last week, at least five Russian journalists and media workers were detained while they were reporting outside the penal colony in which jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny is serving his sentence and was being treated for respiratory illness.

Earlier this year, hundreds of other media workers faced arbitrary arrests and police brutality due to their job covering the nationwide pro-Navalny protests.