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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Newspaper Under Investigation

Russian prosecutors have opened criminal investigations into a weekly newspaper in Perm for allegedly interfering with readers' private lives and divulging state secrets, journalists at the paper said Thursday.

Tatyana Sokolova, chief editor of the Permsky Obozrevatel, or Perm Observer, accused authorities of waging a government-backed campaign to silence an opposition voice before crucial legislative elections.

The weekly has had its office searched twice and documents and computer servers seized, Sokolova said. Police officers also raided a photographer's apartment on Tuesday, confiscating documents and music CDs, she said.

The paper was first targeted in May, after a local journalist complained that she was insulted on the paper's web site. Since then, prosecutors and security agencies launched two probes.

She said the regional publisher has refused the print the paper, forcing the editors to turn to a printer in a neighboring region. The paper's distributors have also refused to work with them.

She dismissed the charges as laughable and said the searches were conducted with rampant procedural violations and said law enforcement officials have ignored a June court order to return the servers.

"The closer the elections, the bigger the pressure," Sokolova said.

Regional prosecutors could not be reached for comment. Ekho Mosvky radio reported that regional security officials confirmed criminal probes had been launched, but would not comment on the case.

Sokolova claimed the paper's critical coverage of regional authorities led voters to cast their ballots against all candidates in the first round of a recent mayoral elections. She said authorities were trying to crack down on the publication before December elections to the regional legislature.

"They are trying to hamper the paper's work," she said.

Reporters Without Borders said the recent surprise searches of the newspaper's offices were "unacceptable."

"Once again, an independent newspaper is being harassed for speaking out," the Paris-based media watchdog group said in a statement.