Russia Puts More Kremlin Critics On A Wanted List As Its Crackdown On Dissent Reaches New Levels

TALLINN, Estonia (AP) — Russian authorities have put more Kremlin critics on a wanted list as its crackdown against dissent reaches unprecedented levels since Moscow sent troops into Ukraine more than two years ago.

Independent Russian news outlet Mediazona reported Tuesday that it found women's rights activist Darya Serenko and prominent journalist and author Mikhail Zygar in the Interior Ministry's database of individuals wanted on criminal charges. The entries don't specify the charges or when they were added to the list.

Both Serenko and Zygar have long left Russia.

The Kremlin's crackdown against opposition activists, independent journalists and government critics has intensified during the war. Hundreds have faced criminal charges over protests and remarks condemning the war in Ukraine, and thousands have been fined or briefly jailed.

Serenko, a longtime activist and author, co-founded the Feminist Anti-War Resistance group shortly after Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022 and moved to Georgia during the crackdown. Both she and the group were designated as “foreign agents," a label that comes with additional government scrutiny.

Zygar, an author and a founding editor in chief of Russia's independent TV channel Dozhd, also left Russia after the invasion and was declared a “foreign agent.” Unconfirmed Russian media reports earlier this year said Zygar could be facing charges of spreading false information about the army over a social media post about Russian atrocities in Bucha, a suburb near Kyiv occupied for several weeks by Moscow's forces.

Spreading false information about the army is a criminal offense punishable by up to 15 years in prison under a law Moscow adopted days after announcing what the Kremlin insists on calling a “special military operation” in Ukraine.

The law has been widely used against those who publicly criticize the war or the Kremlin, including those who left Russia. Many have been tried and convicted in absentia.

On Wednesday, Russia's Investigative Committee announced charging another women's rights activist Zalina Marshenkulova with “justifying terrorism.” Marshenkulova, who also lives abroad, was charged in absentia over unspecified social media posts, according to a statement by the Committee's branch in Moscow. The charge carries punishment of up to seven years in prison.

Marshenkulova said in a Telegram post that she was “not surprised" and described charges against her “surreal” and “arbitrariness.”