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Computer, phone taken, bloody print left in Moscow slaying

New York, February 28, 2006—A laptop computer and cell phone were stolen from the Moscow apartment of slain NTV correspondent Ilya Zimin, and a bloody fingerprint belonging to someone other than the victim was found on a light switch, local news outlets reported today.

Authorities continued to say that the weekend killing was probably not related to Zimin's work at NTV. The 33-year-old reporter's heavily beaten body was found on Monday, and authorities believe he was killed the day before. Moscow prosecutor Anatoly Zuyev said the murder was most likely a common crime resulting from an argument. He said there was no sign of forced entry, suggesting that Zimin knew his assailant, according to press reports.

NTV News Editor Tatyana Mitkova said she did not rule out the possibility that the murder was linked to Zimin's investigative work for the station, the news Web site Polit.ru reported. NTV journalist Vadim Takmenev said Zimin recently used hidden cameras to prepare an upcoming expose of health violations at expensive Moscow restaurants, Polit.ru reported.

Authorities have not identified a suspect, according to the Moscow daily Kommersant. A concierge at Zimin's apartment building initially reported that three men with police identifications visited the reporter at 10 a.m. Sunday and left an hour later, but authorities said they determined the three had visited another apartment in the building, according to Kommersant.

Several of Zimin's colleagues from NTV—which is owned by the state oil giant Gazprom—went to his apartment on Monday after he failed to show up for work or answer his phone, according to local press reports. They found his body lying face down in a pool of blood with many of his possessions thrown to the ground in what appeared to be a sign of a violent struggle.

At least 12 journalists have been murdered in contract-style slayings since 2000. The cases remain unsolved.

Zimin was an award-winning journalist who worked as a correspondent for NTV's investigative program "Profession: Reporter." He was assaulted, robbed, and hospitalized with a broken leg in April 2005, but he did not link the attack to his journalist work, the Moscow daily Novoye Izvestiya reported. Zimin was born in the far eastern city of Vladivostok and had worked as a local correspondent for state television GTRK and NTV before moving to Moscow in 2000.

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