The editor-in-chief of one of the few independent Russian-language outlets resigned from his role Friday, the most high-profile person to have stepped down due to a sexual harassment allegation in Russia.
Ivan Kolpakov was, until his resignation, editor-in-chief at Meduza, which was founded by Russian journalists four years ago after they were squeezed out by Kremlin-friendly takeovers at their previous outlets. It is based in Latvia and has become one of the leading publications willing to challenge the Kremlin’s version of events, including publishing reports on the attempted assassination of Sergei Skripal in the United Kingdom.
The outlet has also been one of the few in Russia to cover #MeToo in the country, last year reporting on a group of journalists’ harassment claims against Leonid Slutsky, a powerful member of the Russian parliament. Meduza also published a guide on what women should do if they face harassment in the workplace.
That history helped fuel the storm around the outlet’s handling of allegations that Kolpakov had groped the wife of a colleague at a party in October — telling her, according to Meduza, “You’re the only one I can get away with harassing.”
The woman’s husband came forward two days after the incident, according to Meduza’s telling of the incident posted on Facebook and in an article in English, and Kolpakov offered to be suspended while an investigation took place. Two weeks later, Meduza said that its board of directors concluded that there was no reason to believe the incident hadn’t happened and condemned Kolpakov — but took no further action against him, determining he’d never harassed anyone before while at Meduza.
In a Facebook post accompanying an announcement of the decision, Meduza CEO Galina Timchenko supported Kolpakov and lashed out at his critics. “Those who look at themselves in the mirror and claim they have not made any mistakes or done anything nasty in their life are either liars or bastards,” she wrote.
Following the decision, the employee who brought the complaint stepped down.