A Russian investigative journalist walked free late Tuesday after authorities in Moscow dropped drug charges against him in a rare climbdown by law enforcement following a public outcry.
Ivan Golunov, a reporter with independent media outlet Meduza, walked out of the gates of a Moscow police building to cheers from waiting journalist and wept as he thanked supporters.
“This all happened so quickly and thank you for that, that you supported me. I think it somehow influenced the course of events,” Golunov said, with tears running down his cheeks.
He said he hoped his case would change police practices and “such situations will not happen again to anyone in this country.”
The journalist vowed to continue his investigative reporting for Meduza, which is based in EU-member Latvia to allow it to work more freely.
“I will be doing investigations because I have to justify the trust of those who supported me,” he said.
The 36-year-old was detained last week on charges supporters said were trumped up to punish him for his investigative work and placed under house arrest.
The case sparked outrage in Russia and abroad over what critics slammed as the impunity and corruption of law enforcement agencies.
In a surprise announcement on Tuesday Interior Minister Vladimir Kolokoltsev said Golunov was to be released from house arrest and charges against him lifted.
Kolokoltsev also said he would ask President Vladimir Putin to sack the head of a Moscow police department and another senior official in charge of drug control in the capital.
The EU welcomed the news, with a European Commission spokesperson calling it a “positive outcome”, but demanding a probe into reports police beat Golunov in detention.
Journalists and activists reacted with joy.