Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Reporter Yuri Bagrov exiled to New York for Chechnya coverage

By Lindsay Beyerstein, freelance journalist.

April 21, 2008

Reporter Yuri Bagrov exiled to New York for Chechnya coverage

Yuri Bagrov's coverage of the violence in Chechnya incurred the wrath of the Russian government:
His work quickly made him a target of government harassment. A court ruling kept him from attending news conferences, he said, and local officials frequently trailed his car and raided his apartment and his office. At night, anonymous men telephoned his home, and when his wife answered, they asked to speak “with Mr. Bagrov’s widow.”

Finally, in 2005, Russian state security services stripped him of his citizenship and took away his passport. “After a while,” he said the other day, “the message became pretty clear.”

For a while he lived in legal limbo in Moscow. Then, after the United States granted him refugee status, he came to New York a year ago. With the help of the Committee to Protect Journalists, he settled into a three-room cottage at an estate in Rockland County that is financed by a foundation begun by Leo Tolstoy’s daughter Alexandra; the estate has served as a sanctuary for Russia’s political undesirables since the 1940s.

But these days, Mr. Bagrov prefers to live in New York, where he boards with an older Russian woman who has a couple of spare rooms at her apartment on West 141st Street in Hamilton Heights. [NYT]

Bagrov doesn't speak much English, so he's struggling to find work as a journalist in his new home. He now makes his living as a cab driver.

Bagrov escaped from Russia with his life, but the 32-year-old's promising career has been derailed.

Perhaps the coverage in the New York Times will help Bagrov find a job as a journalist. Surely, in a city this size, some media outlet would benefit from the expertise of Russian-speaking former war correspondent.
Unless of course Bagrov's been blacklisted.

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I was curious about the assertion that "Russian state security services stripped him of his citizenship" - I wondered what possible basis they could have for such an action. The answer: He was "accused of forging documents in order to obtain Russian citizenship". It seems that he grew up in Soviet Georgia, and his family moved to the Russian Federation in 1992, after the abolition of the USSR, and he got his Russian passport then, at about the age of 16.

Posted by: mitchell porter April 22, 2008 at 12:31 AM

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