Russian Government Threatens Armenian News Website

Russian authorities are threatening to ban OCCRP partner Hetq.am from their internet if the Armenian web news service does not remove 2017 articles about a Russian citizen arrested in the Czech Republic.

HetqHetq's logoIn May of 2017, Hetq wrote about the arrest of Ruben Tatulyan (aka Robson), citing  Russian mass media and videos still available on the internet. He’s a citizen of Russia, but reportedly had an Armenian diplomatic passport when arrested.

In September of 2017, Hetq received a letter from Roskomnadzor, Russia’s Service for Supervision of Communications, Information Technology, and Mass Media, stating that Tatulyan had asked for help to get Hetq to remove his personal information.

Hetq has received four notices about the impending ban in the last month. The Armenian website aravot.am has already been blocked in Russia.

Tatulyan was arrested at a gathering of organized crime bosses, but was not held because of the diplomatic passport, which an Armenian Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman confirmed was issued "for his active work aimed at the economic development of the country and attracting new investments."

The United States has placed Tatulyan on its Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) blacklist for "involvement in serious transnational criminal activities”.

Hetq said on Monday it has written to Armenia’s Ministry of Justice for an official comment on the matter and is waiting for a reply.