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How the Nobel Peace Prize Laid Bare the Schism in Russia’s Opposition

  • October 17, 2021

Mr. Navalny, in prison, was unable to offer an instant reaction, even as one of his exiled colleagues slammed the Nobel committee for delivering “pretentious and hypocritical speeches.” On Monday, Mr. Navalny congratulated Mr. Muratov. He noted that the past murders of journalists for Mr. Muratov’s Novaya Gazeta newspaper served as a reminder of “what a high price those who refuse to serve the authorities have to pay.”

Mr. Muratov co-founded Novaya Gazeta in 1993, with funding from Mikhail S. Gorbachev, the last Soviet leader. Six journalists working for Novaya have been murdered; their black-and-white portraits in black frames hang in a row in a corner of a conference room at the newspaper’s Moscow headquarters.

As other media outlets either shut down under pressure or were co-opted by the authorities, Novaya maintained its independence and often criticized Mr. Putin. Its 2017 reporting on the torture and killings of gay men in the Caucasus republic of Chechnya prompted a global wave of outrage. After a Novaya exposé last year about an oil spill in the Arctic, a Russian court ordered the mining giant Norilsk Nickel — run by one of the country’s richest men — to pay a $2 billion fine.

But Mr. Muratov acknowledges that he holds back on what has become a particularly explosive sort of investigative journalism in today’s Russia: exploring the hidden wealth of Mr. Putin and his inner circle. Much of that wealth, reporters at other publications have found, is held by family members or suspected extramarital partners and their children. Mr. Muratov says that though his reporters also pursue corruption investigations, “we don’t get into people’s private lives.”

“When it comes to children and women — I stop,” Mr. Muratov said.

The online news outlets that published those more aggressive investigations have been outlawed or declared “foreign agents” in recent months, with many of their editors and reporters forced into exile. Novaya has managed to continue operating, despite widespread speculation that it also faced a crackdown.

“We are an influential newspaper, which means we have to be able to have a dialogue,” Mr. Muratov said. “As soon as you start to offend people — whether or not they are in power — you lose influence. People don’t talk to you anymore.”

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