Two journalists at the independent news outlet iStories have been receiving threats, including personal information showing the perpetrators’ intimate knowledge of their comings and goings. Back in early March 2023, someone calling himself “Yevgeny P.” using the email address [email protected] sent the following message through the outlet’s feedback portal: “Your little fuckers on streets [redacted] and [redacted] better not sleep too tight! Say hi to them!” The text contained what were then the home addresses of journalists Irina Dolinina and Alesya Marokhovskaya.
Months later, on August 24, a new message arrived revealing that the sender knew Marokhovskaya had moved. “[We’ll] find her anywhere she walks that wheezing dog of hers,” the sender wrote. According to iStories, Marokhovskaya’s dog has respiratory problems and often makes a wheezing sound with breathing, raising concerns that she has been under surveillance in Prague.
Irina Dolinina and Alesya Marokhovskaya received new threats last week ahead of a trip to the Swedish city of Gothenburg, where they planned to attend a conference for investigative journalists. Five days before the event, iStories got another message from someone using [email protected] saying that Dolinina and Marokhovskaya “cannot go to Gothenburg” because “they know where to look for them there.”
The sender also included private information from the two journalists’ flight and hotel reservations: “Take this seriously. I don’t want to scare you. I want to help. The plane tickets, the hotel — they know all of it. These aren’t just empty words…”
iStories spoke to a former intelligence officer in Europe who said the threats could be the work of the Russian authorities, who enjoy constant access to flight passenger records in the European Union. A veteran specialist in countering Russian and Belarusian intelligence activities abroad told iStores that the messages to Dolinina and Marokhovskaya could be the work of Russia’s Federal Security Service or “persons associated with it.” The source explained that the FSB often hires local criminals to try to intimidate and pressure journalists.
Russian journalists who relocated to Europe after the full-scale invasion of Ukraine have faced mounting information insecurity. On June 22, 2023, Meduza co-founder Galina Timchenko received a threat notification from Apple informing her that state-sponsored actors had attacked her iPhone. Meduza later confirmed that her device was infected with Pegasus spyware in February 2023 while she was in Berlin. At least two states on friendly terms with Moscow, as well as numerous E.U. members, are known Pegasus clients.