Several of Zimin's colleagues from NTV—which is owned by the state oil giant Gazprom—went to his apartment today after he failed to show up for work or answer his phone, according to local press reports. They found his heavily beaten corpse lying face down in a pool of blood and much of the furniture overturned in what appeared to be a sign of a violent struggle, according to local and international press reports.
The Moscow city prosecutor has opened a murder investigation. Police and prosecutors said the killing was not work-related but did not explain how they had made the determination, according to local press reports. An unidentified police officer said nothing appeared to be stolen from the apartment, the state news agency ITAR-TASS reported.
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 television channel, the news Web site Polit.ru reported.
A concierge at Zimin's apartment building said three men with purported police identifications visited the reporter at 10 a.m. Sunday and left an hour later, the Moscow daily Kommersant reported. Medical experts determined that Zimin probably died around 3 p.m. Sunday as a result of a head trauma inflicted earlier that day.
At least 12 journalists have been murdered in contract-style slayings since 2000. The cases remain unsolved.
"In light of Russia's record of impunity in the killings of journalists, authorities need to conduct a thorough and transparent investigation," CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper said. "We're concerned that initial statements dismissing the possibility of a work-related motive may prejudice the investigation."
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.