IStories journalists report receiving online threats and being stalked in Europe

Two journalists with a Russian exiled media outlet are receiving online threats and are likely being stalked by unknown individuals in Europe.

Anonymous individuals sent a feedback form on the website of IStories, a Russian independent media outlet, on 3 March. The message was published by the media outlet on Tuesday: “May your nits from the streets of (name) and (name) not sleep in peace!”

The streets mentioned above were indeed home to Alesya Marokhovskaya and Irina Dolinina, two journalists with IStories, at the time; their address details were never publicly available. The IStories staff left Russian soon after the war in Ukraine had started; most of its employees settled in the Czech capital Prague.

The second threat came on 24 August, again via the website’s feedback form. The sender made it clear they were aware that Marokhovskaya moved to a different place:

“Rest assured, you can’t hide from us anywhere. We know your scumbag ran away like a rat in terror, we will find her elsewhere.

She’s got nowhere to go and she’ll have to answer for every lie and evil thing she’s said. For every word she’s said. We’ll find her wherever she walks her wheezing dog. None of you can hide anywhere now.”

The sender was clearly stalking Marokhovskaya as her dog actually has breathing issues.

IStories received new threats last week and decided to go public.

“We did not publicly talk about these threats earlier because, firstly, we perceived them as part of our work and a kind of recognition of our own merits; secondly, because compared to the horror that our colleagues from Ukraine go through every day, we saw these threats as something annoying, but not critical. [Now that we reveal this] we believe that this information can help Russian journalists who left the country and other people Putin’s regime considers its enemies,” the outlet said in a statement published on Tuesday.

Dolinina and Marokhovskaya had a trip to Gothenburg, Sweden scheduled for Tuesday where they were supposed to attend an investigative journalists’ international conference. They received more threats last Thursday, again via the feedback form: “You know who to tell this to: they can’t go to Gothenburg. Not even for a day. [We know] where to look for them. Trust me.”

The next day, another message came from the same sender: “Take it seriously. I don’t want to scare you. I want to help. Tickets, hotel reservations, we know it all,” the message read, providing all the details of the flight and the hotel rooms booked for Marokhovskaya and Dolinina.

A former officer of an unspecified European intelligence service told IStories that the individual(s) in question are likely to be working for Russia.

“It could be FSB officers or people associated with them. Often the FSB acts with the hands of local organised crime.

Such intimidation tactics are similar to the style of Russian security forces to create pressure and psychologically abuse journalists,”

the former security officer says.

Galina Timchenko, a publisher for another Russian exiled media outlet Meduza, reportedly had her phone hacked using spy software known as Pegasus, she reported last Thursday. Maria Epifanova of Novaya-Europe and Yevgeny Pavlov, a journalist with Novaya Gazeta Baltia, also reported they had been possibly attacked by hackers.

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