Russian editor defends decision to put Navalny on cover

STORY: The editor of a Moscow newspaper said he stands by the decision to devote its front page last week to the death of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny...

even though most of the print run was confiscated.

The weekly - called Sobesednik - ran a front-page photo of Navalny with the caption: "...but there is hope!" four days after his death.

The issue contained a two-page spread with an obituary and coverage of vigils in his honor across Moscow.

It was a striking contrast with most Russian state media... where Navalny's sudden death in an Arctic penal colony was either ignored or mentioned only briefly.

Sobesednik's editor-in-chief Oleg Roldugin spoke to Reuters on Monday.

"We are doing our normal journalistic work - we are doing a normal newspaper. There is a newsworthy occurrence - a person, quite famous, quite influential, has died."

Shortly after hitting newsstands, virtually all copies were confiscated.

Sobesednik focuses on coverage of society and politics with a liberal bent and previously published several interviews with Navalny.

Roldugin says Sobesednik is effectively the last printed newspaper in Russia that, (quote) "does journalism, not politics."

Under President Vladimir Putin the Kremlin has clamped down on press freedom.

Most independent media outlets have been shuttered or forced into exile... all state media is directed to toe the government line.

Russia's internet watchdog blocked the newspaper's website after the start of the Ukraine conflict... and the paper has tried to create new sites that readers inside Russia can access.

When news of its confiscation began circulating in Moscow, Roldugin says he received "many" calls asking for extra copies.

He said the newspaper, which has a print circulation of around 154,000, is now more popular than ever among readers.

For now, there are no problems with distributors... but Roldugin says the paper is braced for a possible further clampdown.