Russia's leading independent newspaper suspended operations Monday after pressure from Russian authorities, a move that comes less than six months after its editor won the Nobel Peace Prize for his paper’s courageous reporting under difficult circumstances. The paper, Novaya Gazeta, said it will remain closed for the duration of what the newspaper referred to in quotations as "the special operation" in Ukraine, the term that Russian authorities insist media must use. The newspaper was the last major independent media outlet critical of Vladimir Putin's government after others either shut their doors or had their websites blocked since Russia's invasion of Ukraine began on Feb. 24, the AP reports.
The trigger for the shutdown was a second formal warning from the Russian media regulator Roskomnadzor, which has increasingly taken on the role of a censor in recent years. Exactly why Novaya Gazeta was warned remains unclear. Roskomnadzor told state news agency Tass that the newspaper had failed to identify an unnamed non-governmental organization as a "foreign agent" in its reporting, as required by Russian law. It didn't specify the report in question. Novaya Gazeta has trodden a fine line during the war in Ukraine. It initially defied the Russian authorities' restrictions, publishing in Russian and Ukrainian the day after the invasion began.
However, it removed much of its war reporting from its website after Russian lawmakers passed a law March 4 threatening jail terms of up to 15 years for information deemed to be "fake" by Russian authorities. That can include any mention of Russian forces harming civilians or suffering losses on the battlefield. On Sunday, Muratov sent in questions for an interview with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky along with a group of Russian journalists. Roskomnadzor banned the publication of the interview with Zelensky in Russia and said the media outlets which took part would be investigated. (Muratov said last week he was donating his Nobel medal to be auctioned off to raise funds for Ukrainian refugees,)