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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Reporters Evicted in Favor of Russia Today

The Russian Union of Journalists is being evicted from its headquarters to make space for the Russia Today television channel, union head Igor Yakovenko said Tuesday.

Yakovenko said Alexei Grigoryev, a deputy head of the Moscow branch of the Federal Property Management Agency, told the union Tuesday that the eviction fulfilled an order from President Vladimir Putin to find more space for Russia Today, the state-owned English language channel tasked with creating a positive image of Russia abroad.

The union and Russia Today both occupy offices in the same building at 4 Zubovsky Bulvar, near the Park Kultury metro station in central Moscow. The building also houses RIA-Novosti.

Grigoryev and Russia Today officials could be reached late Tuesday.

With more than 100,000 members, the Russian Union of Journalists is the country's largest public organization.

Yakovenko said the letter, signed by Grigoryev and dated April 18, ordered the union to clear out its offices within one month. The union occupies 2,000 square meters in the building under a decree issued in the early 1990s by President Boris Yeltsin, Yakovenko said.

The union also has offices in the House of Journalists on Nikitsky Bulvar, which it uses for public events.

Yakovenko said the eviction could be connected with a recent criminal investigation into the Educated Media Foundation, the successor to Internews Russia. The group's head, Manana Aslamazian, was detained in January at Sheremetyevo Airport for failing to declare that she was carrying excess cash. Investigators recently raided the group's office, seizing financial documents and bringing its work to a halt.

Yakovenko, who criticized the raid, said investigators had been looking into the union's ties with the group.

He also said union staffers would not move out of their offices May 18, as the eviction notice demands, saying they are busy preparing for the World Congress of Journalists, which opens in Moscow on May 28.