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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Journalists Ask Putin For Help

A group of Saratov journalists has asked President Vladimir Putin to protect them from persecution by officials of pro-Kremlin party United Russia, Kommersant reported Thursday.

In an open letter to Putin, journalists from 11 media organizations accused United Russia officials in the region of using the justice system to punish journalists for criticism of the party and its members, the newspaper said.

The letter cites a September report in the Saratovsky Rasklad weekly that State Duma Deputy Speaker Vyacheslav Volodin purportedly injured a woman with a spearfishing gun.

"The speed with which law enforcement authorities reacted to the publication of the article turned out to be unprecedented," the letter to Putin reads.

Once the report was published, regional prosecutors opened a criminal case accusing the newspaper of libel, Kommersant said.

The letter also cites the recent case of the newspaper Saratovsky Reporter, which is facing possible closure after the United Russia branch in Saratov filed a complaint with prosecutors over a photograph the paper published showing Putin's head pasted onto the body of fictional Soviet spy hero Otto von Stirlitz.

The Saratov Regional Court is scheduled to issue a ruling Tuesday on whether to revoke the newspaper's license based on an official warning from local media compliance officials that the photograph was extremist in nature, RIA-Novosti reported.

The cases are "part of a full-scale campaign by United Russia" to stamp out public criticism of the party in the region, the letter to Putin said.

A Kremlin spokeswoman said Thursday that she had no information about the letter.