Russian President Vladimir Putin has fired two high-ranking Moscow police officials, days after anti-corruption journalist Ivan Golunov was freed amid an outcry over a fabricated drugs case.
Interior Minister Vladimir Kolokoltsev had called for the dismissal of western Moscow police chief Maj. Gen. Andrei Puchkov and drug control chief Maj. Gen. Yury Devyatkin.
Ivan Golunov, 36, was released after lawyers said drugs had been planted on him.
It also emerged that police photos of a drugs lab were not taken in his flat.
The journalist, who had been working for the Latvia-based independent news website Meduza, alleged he had been beaten while in custody.
Ivan Golunov was later released under house arrest before being freed on June 11, a day after three respected newspapers published the same front-page headline: “I/We are Golunov.”
Hundreds of people were arrested during a pro-Golunov rally in central Moscow on June 12, many of them bearing the same slogan as the newspapers.
The interior minister announced the suspension of officers involved in the case on June 11, saying that the reporter’s guilt “had not been proven”.
President Vladimir Putin has avoided commenting on the case, although his spokesman said earlier in the week that the Kremlin had been keeping a close eye on it.
He will appear before the Russian public in the annual “Direct Line” phone-in on June 20, when Russians are given the chance to speak to the president.
Russian commentators have suggested the Kremlin is keen for the story to disappear before the event.
Ivan Golunov was stopped last week while on his way to meet another journalist in Moscow. Police officers said they found the drug mephedrone in his bag, and more drugs and weighing scales in a search of his home.
The journalist’s lawyers and press freedom activists said the drugs had been planted in order to silence the investigative journalist.
Ivan Golunov’s supporters immediately claimed that he was innocent and a victim of false drugs charges used against opposition figures and human rights activists by the Russian state.