Spanish journalist leaves Russia after authorities refuse to renew his visa

Spanish daily El Mundo said Thursday that its correspondent in Russia left the country after authorities refused to renew his journalist visa.

El Mundo said Xavier Colás left Russia on Wednesday, a day after an official told him that if he didn't leave before his visa expired, he would have problems. He is one of several journalists effectively expelled from Russia amid unrelenting crackdown on critical news outlets, opposition activists and human rights groups that has intensified since Moscow sent troops into Ukraine more than two years ago.

According to El Mundo, Colás had been visited by police officers who warned him to stop covering demonstrations by women whose loved ones serve in the Russian military, one of the few visible signs of public discontent with the war.

Russia's Foreign Ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Colás had been reporting from Russia for 12 years. He also reported from Ukraine and recently published his first book, “Putinistán,” about President Vladimir Putin ’s government.

“I have simply done my job: I have told what happens, I have spoken to the people who suffer because of it and I have explained who is responsible for what is happening," the journalist said on X, formerly Twitter, on Wednesday, adding that he had 24 hours to leave Russia.

Independent media and journalists in Russia have come under increasing pressure from the government in recent years. Multiple Russian news outlets have been blocked online, labeled as “foreign agents” or outlawed as “undesirable” organizations.

A number of foreign journalists have been expelled from the country, or faced the Foreign Ministry’s refusal to extend their visas.

In August 2021, the Foreign Ministry refused to renew the visa for BBC correspondent Sarah Rainsford amid tensions with the U.K. Several months later, the Russian authorities expelled Tom Vennink, a Moscow correspondent for the Dutch newspaper De Volkskrant, citing “administrative violations.”

In February 2022, just three weeks before invading Ukraine, the Russian authorities announced shutting down the Moscow office of German public broadcaster Deutsche Welle and withdrawing its staff’s accreditations.

In May 2022, when the fighting in Ukraine was in full swing, the Russian authorities closed the bureau of Canada’s broadcaster the CBC and stripped its journalists of visas and credentials.

In March 2023, Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich was arrested on a reporting trip to Russia and later charged with espionage — allegations he and his employer vehemently denied, while the U.S. government declared him to be wrongfully detained.

In August 2023, Russian authorities refused to renew the visa of Eva Hartog, a Dutch journalist writing for the Dutch news magazine De Groene Amsterdammer and for Politico Europe.