MOSCOW, June 16. /TASS/. A rally for protecting the freedom of speech and journalistic activity on Sakharov Avenue in downtown Moscow has drawn nearly 1,600 people, the Russian Interior Ministry’s Main Department in the city told TASS on Sunday.
"An authorized public event is underway on Sakharov Avenue, with some 1,600 taking part," a police spokesman said. The police and the National Guard forces are ensuring public security and order.
The rally’s organizers initially planned to draw attention to the case of Ivan Golunov, a journalist of the Meduza media outlet, who was accused of trying to illegally sell drugs. However, after the drug-related charges against him were dropped, the organizers changed the slogan into "Law and Justice For All."
Moscow’s authorities had authorized a rally on June 16 on Sakharov Avenue at between 1 p.m. and 3 p.m., saying that up to 20,000 people could take part.
Golunov, a reporter of the Meduza media outlet, walked free on June 11 after police had dropped criminal charges against him amid claims that he was framed. The journalist was taken into custody on June 6. According to the Interior Ministry’s Main Moscow office, Golunov was carrying four grams of mephedrone, a synthetic stimulant drug, while five grams of cocaine were found during a search of his rented apartment. Subsequently, he was charged with drug dealing, whereupon Moscow’s Nikulinsky District Court placed the journalist under house arrest. Golunov denied all the accusations from the beginning, and his defense attorney believed that the prohibited substances had been planted.
The Interior Ministry dropped criminal charges against Golunov after tests had failed to reveal any traces of drugs. Two police generals were sacked over Golunov’s case. The journalist’s detention has sparked an unprecedented public outcry. On June 12, protesters gathered for an unauthorized rally in support of Golunov.