MOSCOW — Russian President Vladimir Putin has issued a thinly veiled threat against the journalist Dmitry Muratov, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize last week for his investigative journalism as editor-in-chief of the Novaya Gazeta newspaper.
Putin broke his silence on the prestigious prize to urge Muratov to be careful: "If he covers himself with the Nobel Prize like a shield to violate Russian laws, he does so consciously," Putin said at the Russian Energy Week event in Moscow on Wednesday.
"If he doesn't break Russian law and there's no reason to declare him a 'foreign agent,' then that won't happen."
Muratov himself later said he would accept the award regardless of the Kremlin leader's remarks: "The state can do what it wants, but we will accept the prize, we will not renounce the prize," the 59-year-old told the Interfax new agency.
The Norwegian Nobel Committee awarded the Nobel Peace Prize jointly to Muratov and Filipino journalist Maria Ressa on Friday. Giving the prize to two journalists was intended to underline the importance of protecting freedom of expression and freedom of the press in any democratic and peaceful society.
Muratov has said he would be dedicating the award to the six journalists at his newspaper who have been killed over the years.
Despite Putin's silence until now, the Kremlin has actually congratulated Muratov on his award. The journalist said he had been assured that the prize money was no reason to declare him a "foreign agent."
Under a controversial law, all media and nongovernmental organizations in Russia must register as "foreign agents" if they receive finance from sources outside Russia.
Moscow claims that the law protects Russia against outside interference in its internal affairs. Critics, however, argue that the move is designed to discredit independent media outlets and is applied by the government against its political enemies.