Newsweek

Did Trump Help Putin Silence an Opposition Figure?

Igor Rudnikov, a Russian opposition figure and journalist, lost his newspaper—and his political career—over accusations that he’s a U.S. resident.
Igor Rudnikov, an outspoken opposition lawmaker and newspaper editor, was accused of trying to blackmail a senior law enforcement official.
PER_Russia_01 Source: Illustration by Gluekit (Clockwise from bottom left: Zoonar/Alamy; YURI KADOBNOV/AFP/Getty; Gavin Hellier/Getty; Courtesy of the editorial office of Igor Rudnikov)

Last November, Igor Rudnikov was at home in his apartment in the tiny Russian region of Kaliningrad when he received some unexpected visitors: masked FSB security officers. They accused Rudnikov, an outspoken opposition lawmaker and newspaper editor, of trying to blackmail a senior law enforcement official and arrested him.

Rudnikov’s paper, Novye Kolyosa, built its reputation on exposing government corruption, and it had recently published a story questioning how the public official, Viktor Ledenyov, a general on Russia’s Investigative Committee, which answers only to President Vladimir Putin, had come into possession of a lakeside luxury home. Rudnikov denied the charge that he had demanded $50,000 from Ledenyov to stop publishing stories about him. During hours of interrogation, he says, investigators beat him so badly that he lost consciousness.

“Only an idiot would try and blackmail a general in the Investigative Committee,” says Mikhail Chesalin, an opposition politician in Kaliningrad. “It would be like attempting to blackmail Putin himself. And Igor Rudnikov is certainly

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