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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Reporter Complains of FSB Harassment

For MTRadio Liberty correspondent Yuri Bagrov
Radio Liberty correspondent Yuri Bagrov said Tuesday that a Federal Security Service agent prevented him from covering an opposition rally in North Ossetia last week and then followed him to his office and threatened him.

The incident is the latest in a series of actions by the Federal Security Service, or FSB, and by police that have prevented Bagrov from reporting. Bagrov and media rights groups have linked his troubles to critical reports he has written about Chechnya.

Bagrov said he tried to interview a North Ossetian opposition leader, Alikhan Khugayev, at a rally on Friday of about 700 people protesting regional government corruption in Vladikavkaz. But the FSB agent ordered him to stop, saying he was breaking the law because he did not have proper press accreditation, Bagrov said.

Bagrov, a former Associated Press reporter, was stripped off his passport and press credentials last year when a North Ossetian court convicted him on FSB-initiated charges of using falsified documents to obtain a Russian passport. Bagrov was born in Georgia but lives in Vladikavkaz.

Bagrov said he tried to contest the FSB agent's order Friday, but that the agent "promised trouble" if he disobeyed.

Bagrov said he recorded their conversation and told the agent that he would include it in a report for Radio Liberty.

Shortly after he returned to his office, the agent entered and demanded that the recording be erased, Bagrov said. "You will have very big problems, much bigger than the ones you have already dealt with," the agent said, according to Bagrov.

"My wife is to give birth in two months. I decided not to argue and erased the tape," Bagrov said.

Bagrov said he has been prevented from reporting many times in recent months. Just Thursday, the FSB and local police barred him from the trial of Nurpashi Kulayev, the only known survivor of the group of armed militants that seized the Beslan school in September, Bagrov said.

A police officer and several plainclothes FSB officers stopped Bagrov at the entrance of the republic's Supreme Court and told him he could not go in because he lacked press accreditation from the Foreign Ministry, he said.

The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists, or CPJ, condemned the latest incidents and called on Moscow "to take genuine steps to allow Bagrov to report freely."

"CPJ is deeply troubled by the continued harassment of Yuri Bagrov," the media watchdog said in a statement.

The North Ossetian Interior Ministry, which oversees the police, defended its actions, saying in a statement that Bagrov was not registered as a resident in North Ossetia, CPJ said.

However, the ministry said in February that Bagrov was registered as a resident -- a statement it made after the FSB had ordered Bagrov deported and media rights groups had protested. At the time, the ministry ruled that Bagrov could stay in Russia and reapply for citizenship.

Ministry officials could not be reached for clarification Tuesday. Regional FSB officials also could not be immediately reached for comment.

A decision on whether Bagrov -- whose mother and wife are Russian citizens -- will receive a Russian passport is expected in September. Until then, Bagrov is not allowed to leave Vladikavkaz.