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Columnist And Outspoken Kremlin Critic Viktor Shenderovich Leaves Russia Amid Pressure Campaign.

Prominent writer Viktor Shenderovich, an outspoken Kremlin critic, s ays he has left Russia because of a pressure campaign on him by officials.

Shenderovich, a columnist for The New Times, wrote on Facebook on January 10 that he decided to leave the country "until better times in Russia" after a libel probe was launched against him at the request of businessman Yevgeny Prigozhin, a close associate of President Vladimir Putin.

Shenderovich has criticized Prigozhin for allegedly leading the private Russian military contractor Vagner Group, a paramilitary force that Western governments say the Kremlin has been using in conflicts in Ukraine, Libya, Syria, Sudan, Mozambique, and the Central African Republic.

Last month Shenderovich was placed on the foreign agent list by the Justice Ministry. Russia's foreign agent laws require those designated to register with the authorities and label their content with an intrusive disclaimer, with criminal fines for not doing so.

Many activists, journalists, and associates of jailed opposition politician Aleksei Navalny have left the country in recent months amid increasing pressure on independent media and those voicing dissent. Several of those to leave the country were on the foreign agent list.

Russia denies a link between the government and the mercenaries, often describing the paramilitary force as trainers or advisers, despite evidence they have been engaged in combat operations.

President Vladimir Putin has said the Vagner Group does not represent the Russian state and is not paid by it. He has also said private military contractors have the right to work and pursue their interests anywhere in the world as long as they do not break Russian law.

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