Saint Petersburg cop arrested after allegedly leaking information about flight on which opposition figure Alexey Navalny fell ill

A Russian policeman has been arrested, suspected of leaking information from the country’s centralized database of travel records, which is available only to law enforcement. He is accused of transferring data to a third party.

That’s according to Moscow daily Kommersant, which reported that the unnamed St. Petersburg police officer could have handed over information to the team of Alexey Navalny, the Russian opposition figure who was allegedly poisoned and fell ill on a flight from Tomsk to Moscow in August. The newspaper claims that, in September, the individual concerned checked the database for information on Navalny’s flight S7 2614, and “transferred it to a third party.” The Investigative Committee has opened a criminal case based on abuse of authority.

In Russia, internal flight and rail tickets are generally bought using a passport or other identity document, meaning that the database is a very easy way to track citizens’ movement.

Also on Russian policeman under house arrest, reportedly suspected of selling confidential flight information to Bellingcat – RBK sources

The journalists also claim the investigation into the leaked information was the reason for the arrest of reporter Mäile Machulite of Baza, who was detained last week after a meeting with a police officer about “important information.” According to Kommersant, she was questioned in connection with the case of the flight database information leak. Baza is a Telegram channel that often breaks news before established media outlets.

Flight data formed a large part of an investigation into the alleged poisoning of Navalny, conducted by the US and UK government-funded group Bellingcat, alongside Russian-language outlet the Insider, America’s CNN, and Germany’s Der Spiegel. According to their reports, Navalny was attacked by Federal Security Service officers, who followed Navalny for a long time, visiting the same cities as him in small groups. Leaked databases obtained on the black market were an integral part of Bellingcat’s investigation, and it came to its conclusions using phone geolocation data and airplane ticket information.

The latest detainment isn’t the first time a policeman has been implicated in leaking data not publicly available in connection with the Navalny case. On January 19, a senior police lieutenant from Samara, Kirill Chuprov, was placed under house arrest and faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted of abuse of office. According to a source for Moscow daily newspaper RBC, Chuprov also released secret travel data.

On August 20, Navalny fell ill on a flight to Moscow from the Siberian city of Tomsk. The plane was forced to make an emergency landing in Omsk, another Russian city, where he was taken to the hospital and placed in a coma. At the request of his family and associates, he was flown to Berlin’s Charité Clinic for treatment. Shortly after arriving in Germany, doctors announced that the opposition figure had been poisoned with Novichok – a claim that Siberian physicians dispute. Almost five months later, after recovering from his illness, the opposition figure returned to Russia and was immediately arrested, accused of breaching the terms of a suspended sentence for embezzlement.

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