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Russia charges suspect in Igor Domnikov murder

(Novaya Gazeta)

New York, May 8, 2013--Today's arrest in Moscow of a local businessman suspected of organizing a brutal attack that led to the death in 2000 of investigative reporter Igor Domnikov is a long-overdue step toward justice, the Committee to Protect Journalists said. Russian authorities must now ensure that all of those involved in planning the attack are brought to justice, CPJ said.

Domnikov, 42, a reporter for the Moscow-based Novaya Gazeta, died two months after at least one assailant struck him in the head multiple times with hammer. The attack occurred at the entrance of Domnikov's apartment building on May 12, 2000.

Russia's Investigative Committee, the federal agency responsible for inquiries into the country's most serious crimes, announced today that authorities had arrested Pavel Sopot, a local businessman, on charges of "intentional infliction of a grave injury," which carries up to 12 years in prison. In early 2000, Domnikov published a series of articles in which he criticized authorities for what he perceived to be nepotism, corruption, and an inability to carry out effective anti-crime and agricultural policies in the Lipetsk region of Russia. "Investigators believe that in response to this [reporting], businessman Pavel Sopot decided to organize an assault against the journalist in order to strengthen his position in the eyes of local businessmen," the committee said in a statement.

In a separate statement issued today, Novaya Gazeta said it believed Sopot was involved, but only as a middleman who arranged the attack on orders from Sergei Dorovskoi, a former regional deputy governor. Dorovskoi did not immediately respond to today's assertion, which echoed allegations that first surfaced several years ago.

According to CPJ research and news reports, the Investigative Committee opened an inquiry into Sopot's role in 2009, but would not investigate any potential part played by Dorovskoi. Dorovskoi did not respond to messages from CPJ in 2009 seeking comment.

"Thirteen years after the murder of Igor Domnikov, his family and colleagues are still waiting to see the masterminds behind bars," said CPJ Deputy Director Robert Mahoney. "Today's arrest is a sign of a progress, but Russian authorities must deliver complete justice in the case."

According to the Investigative Committee, Sopot contacted Eduard Tagiryanov, a leader of a regional organized criminal gang, who in turn ordered his gang members to follow Domnikov and attack him. In August 2008, a regional court in Kazan convicted and sentenced Tagiryanov and four other gang members to lengthy jail terms on charges of attacking Domnikov and carrying out other grave crimes.

Although Russian authorities have won recent convictions in some journalist murders, the country's impunity rating remains among the world's worst, CPJ research shows. At least 14 journalist murders between January 2003 and December 2012 remain unsolved, CPJ's 2013 Impunity Index shows.

To fight impunity in press killings, the Committee to Protect Journalists has launched Speak Justice: Voices Against Impunity, a new digital platform to help break the cycle of fear and censorship.

Editor's note:The original version of this alert has been changed in the first and third paragraphs to correct that suspect Pavel Sopot has been charged in the plot to attack Igor Domnikov. He has not been indicted. The original headline has also been changed to reflect the correction.

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