The editor of the Moscow weekly Sobesednik (talker) said he was defending his decision to dedicate the newspaper’s front page to the death of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny, even though most of its pages were confiscated.

Sobesednik published a two-page tribute to Navalny on February 20, four days after his death, which included a lengthy obituary while covering spontaneous vigils in his memory held across Moscow.

The newspaper ran a front-page photo of Navalny smiling with the caption: “… but there is hope.”

It was a striking contrast to most state media, which either ignored or made brief mention of Navalny’s sudden death at the Arctic prison colony.

In an interview with Reuters, Sobesednik editor Oleg Roldugin said the newspaper’s decision to publish Navalny’s photo on the front page was correct, given the opposition politician’s reputation.

“There was an extraordinary news, a man who was very well known and had quite an influence died,” said Roldugin at the newspaper’s offices in Moscow. “In the meantime, we did our work normally, as our colleagues should have done.”

Shortly after the newspaper hit the newsstands, all of its pages were seized, “without any justification,” said Roldugin, who has run the paper since 2021. Roldugin did not give details of the financial damage the paper suffered, but said to have a circulation of about 154,000 leaves.

Founded in the Russian capital in 1984, Sobesednik newspaper focuses on covering social and political issues with a liberal slant and has previously published several interviews with Navalny. Russia’s internet watchdog blocked its website after the start of the war in Ukraine, but the newspaper has tried to create new websites that can be accessed by readers inside Russia.

“We remain essentially the last print newspaper in Russia that does journalism and not politics,” Roldugin said.

Right now, Roldugin says, there are no problems with distribution, but the paper is prepared to face further repression, and advertising remains difficult without a functioning website in Russia.

Among readers however, the newspaper said it is more popular than ever. When word of the confiscation of her circulation began to circulate in Moscow, Roldugin said he began receiving “a lot” of phone calls asking for more sheets.

He said he did not believe that was the authorities’ intention. “Everyone noticed right away, both the cover and the text.”