RUSSIA


Europe and Central Asia cases 2003: Country List    I   Europe and Central Asia Regional Home Page
How CPJ investigates and classifies attacks on the press



FEBRUARY 16, 2003

Zamid Ayubov, Vozrozhdeniye Chechni
ATTACKED

Ayubov, a 40-year-old Chechen journalist for the local pro-Russian administration's thrice-weekly Vozrozhdeniye Chechni, was beaten and detained by Interior Ministry forces in Grozny, Chechnya's capital. Ayubov was assaulted when he approached an Interior Ministry unit and identified himself as a journalist researching an article about Interior Ministry units conducting night patrols in Grozny, according to Radio Svoboda, the Russian-language service of the U.S. government­funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.

A CPJ source in Grozny verified that Ayubov suffered multiple heavy bruises after the troops—who belong to the 2nd Operational-Investigative Bureau of the Leninski District—threw him to the ground, beat him, and kicked him in the ribs and back for about three minutes. The journalist was then arrested and detained overnight without charge, despite having presented his press credentials and a document confirming that he is a resident of Grozny. Ayubov was released the following morning and has filed a complaint at the military prosecutor's office in Grozny.


FEBRUARY 26, 2003

Zavtra
HARASSED

The Russian Media Ministry issued an official warning to the Moscow-based communist, ultranationalist weekly Zavtra after it published an interview with exiled Chechen separatist leader Akhmed Zakayev. Deputy Media Minister Valery Sirazhenko sent an official warning to the weekly stating that the "material published by the newspaper incites ethnic hatred and justifies extremist activity in violation of Article 4 of the Law on Mass Media and Article 1 of the Federal Law on Combating Terrorism," the Interfax news agency reported.

Zavtra Editor-in-Chief Aleksandr Prokhanov had interviewed Zakayev in London, where he is in exile, and published a transcript in two February editions of Zavtra. Zakayev strongly criticized the Kremlin during the interview, alleging that the Kremlin sought to portray Chechens as international terrorists and had tried to silence him.

An unnamed Media Ministry spokesman told the online news agency Gazeta.ru in an interview published on February 27 that the ministry was angered by "the tone of the conversation." He said Zakayev's comments that, "‘Chechens live on their own soil, while Russians are occupiers'" ... bear a negative attitude toward Russians. The spokesman also said that "more than once" the conflict was described "as opposition between Russians and Chechens" and that "this incites hatred between peoples."

Under Russian law, if the newspaper receives three warnings, the Media Ministry can ask for a judicial hearing to seek a court order to close the paper. Some Moscow-based media analysts believe that the warning may be a pretext for the Media Ministry to close Zavtra—a newspaper known for its criticism of President Vladimir Putin—ahead of December parliamentary elections and March 2004 presidential elections.

"The communists have a lot of popular support, and, as a result, Zavtra is relatively popular and tends to sell out rather quickly in the kiosks," according to Oleg Panfilov, director of the Moscow-based press freedom group Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations. "I think that government officials are trying to cleanse the media of critical voices so that the forthcoming elections can proceed smoothly for them."

The Media Ministry's official warning to Zavtra appears punitive because other Moscow-based newspapers have published interviews with Zakayev without receiving a warning. The daily Kommersant printed an interview with Zakayev on December 5, 2002, with no repercussions. The twice-weekly Novaya Gazeta published interviews with Zakayev on March 11, 2003, and on December 9, 2002, also with no repercussions.


MARCH 13, 2003

Aleksandr Krutov, Bogatei
ATTACKED

Krutov, a journalist with the independent weekly newspaper Bogatei, in the southern city of Saratov, was attacked by three unknown assailants, according to local news reports. One of the attackers hit Krutov in the head, knocking him to the ground, and the three beat him. The perpetrators fled the scene after snatching Krutov's briefcase.

Krutov sustained head injuries, including a torn eardrum in his left ear, and severe bruising. The journalist, who recovered at home, did not know when he would be able to return to work. Police visited Krutov immediately after the attack and opened a criminal investigation into the incident.

Krutov told CPJ he is convinced the attack is connected to his work. At the time of the assault, Krutov was working on a story questioning the validity of the regional prosecutor's case against Sergei Shuvalov, the chairman of the Saratov Regional Duma, who had allegedly caused a public disturbance on a flight from Beijing to Moscow.

Krutov recently began receiving offers of money not to print the article. At the time of the attack, the article had not yet been published. Krutov is known for his investigative journalism on the Saratov Region's political figures and politics and has previously been attacked. According to the Moscow-based Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations, he was brutally beaten by unknown assailants in 1996 and 1999. Both attacks were reportedly related to his journalism.


MARCH 16, 2003

Yuri Bagrov, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
HARASSED

Bagrov, a freelancer for the Russian-language service of the U.S. government­funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, was prevented from interviewing Chechen refugees at the Bart refugee camp in the region of Ingushetia by local government officials, a local source in the North Caucasus told CPJ.

Bagrov was reporting from the camp ahead of Chechnya's contentious March 23 constitutional referendum. Chechen refugees in Ingushetia were eligible to participate in the referendum. Bagrov was having a conversation in one of the tents that houses refugees when the camp's commandant and an officer of Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB) approached him. The two officials informed Bagrov that an unspecified directive prohibited him from working in the camp without a special authorization.

Bagrov protested and asked to see a copy of the directive. The commandant and the FSB officer, claiming they did not have a copy at the time, directed him to the commandant's office and said that a copy was available there. Bagrov went to the office, but staff could not give him such a document. He was not allowed to continue his journalistic work in the camp.


MARCH 18, 2003

Olga Kobzeva, GTRK Don-TR
ATTACKED

Kobzeva, a journalist with GTRK Don-TR television, a local branch of the All-Russian State Television and Radio Broadcasting Company, in the southern city of Rostov-on-Don, was attacked by an unknown assailant who used a broken bottle to slash the journalist's face, according to Russian sources. The attack occurred near her home when she was returning from work. None of her personal items were taken, the Russian information agency RIA Novosti reported. Kobzeva was taken to a hospital, where she underwent surgery.

The journalist's colleagues at Don-TR believe that Kobzeva, who is known for her investigative reports on local affairs, was attacked for her work. Nikolai Chebotaryov, Don-TR's general director, told CPJ that the attack might be connected to a story about the illegal privatization of buildings in the city. According to Russian news reports, after the report aired, anonymous individuals threatened Kobzeva and the station and urged them to air a retraction of the story.

Local police have launched an investigation into the assault. The Prosecutor General's Office in the capital, Moscow, also instructed the regional prosecutor's office to conduct a thorough investigation into the attack, as well as into the allegations made in Kobzeva's report.


MAY 6, 2003

Krasnaya Armiya radio
ATTACKED, HARASSED
Sergei Zubanov, Krasnaya Armiya radio
ATTACKED, HARASSED, LEGAL ACTION

Police raided the popular opposition radio station Krasnaya Armiya in the city of Noyabrsk, in Russia's central Ural Region, after the City Election Committee annulled the results of May 4 mayoral elections in four districts, giving incumbent Noyabrsk mayor Yuri Link the advantage over challenger Anatoly Kudryashov, who had reportedly been leading polls at that point. A wave of protests in support of Kudryashov followed.

During the run-up to the election, Krasnaya Armiya had staunchly supported Kudryashov while criticizing Link, leading to official harassment and threats.

On the evening of Tuesday, May 6, approximately 40 police officers stormed a local hotel where the radio station had moved temporarily because of the threats. Police cut off electricity to the hotel and used tear gas during the raid.

Krasnaya Armiya director Zubanov told CPJ that about seven radio employees, as well as hotel security staff and an electrician, were present during the raid. The station's staff, including Zubanov, was assaulted and handcuffed. Officers also knocked Zubanov's head against the wall, seriously injuring him. The journalists were taken to a local police station, where they were detained for several hours.

According to a report published on Noyabrsk.com, a news Web site run by Zubanov, three of the detained journalists had court hearings on May 7 and were fined 1,000 rubles (US$32) for obstructing police work. Zubanov's court hearing was postponed because he had to be hospitalized for his head injuries. Ironically, May 7 is Radio Day in Russia, a professional holiday for radio workers.


AUGUST 15, 2003


German Galkin, Rabochaya Gazeta, Vecherny Chelyabinsk
LEGAL ACTION

Galkin, publisher of Rabochaya Gazeta and deputy chief editor of Vecherny Chelyabinsk, was convicted of criminal defamation following a trial that was closed to the public. The court sentenced Galkin to one year in a labor camp for allegedly libeling and insulting two deputy governors of the Chelyabinsk Region, Andrei Kosilov and Konstantin Bochkaryov, who report to Chelyabinsk Governor Pyotr Sumin, a member of the Communist Party. Both of Galkin's publications have been critical of the governor.

Kosilov and Bochkaryov filed the charges in June 2002 because articles published in the February, April, and June editions of Rabochaya Gazeta alleged misspending by the Chelyabinsk regional administration, including the purchase of expensive cars and the creation of a pro-government television channel ahead of gubernatorial elections in 2005.

Kosilov and Bochkaryov claimed that Galkin——who is also the local head of the Liberal Russia opposition party—had penned the three articles, even though Galkin was not listed in any of the bylines and denies having written them, according to local press reports. Lawyers representing Galkin reported numerous procedural violations throughout the investigation and the closed trial.

On October 7, the Kalininsky District Court, in the city of Chelyabinsk, upheld Galkin's conviction and sentence.


SEPTEMBER 19, 2003
Posted: September 24, 2003

Grani.ru
HARASSED

Investigators from the Moscow Prosecutor General's Office searched the office of the Moscow-based independent news Web site Grani.ru.

Investigators said they wanted an original copy of an anonymous e-mail that Grani.ru had received on August 18 containing a video recording of two prosecutors working for the pro-Russian administration in the southern republic of Chechnya who were abducted by unidentified individuals on December 27, 2002, according to local press reports. Grani.ru posted the video the day it was received.

The investigators conducted a surprise two-hour search of Grani.ru's office on behalf of the Prosecutor General's Office in Chechnya, which is investigating the abduction.

"The staff of the Web site voluntarily gave the original file of the e-mail for the investigators to copy," Grani.ru editor Vladimir Korsunsky told CPJ. "Yet they spent two hours searching through our computers."

On the video clip, one of the kidnapped prosecutors is seen asking for help from Boris Berezovsky, an exiled businessman who is a bitter opponent of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Berezovsky is the majority shareholder in Grani.ru.

Korsunsky also said that an investigator questioned him about the hostages and about his personal conversations Berezovsky about the hostages.

CPJ obtained a copy of the search warrant, which only authorized investigators to search the office to obtain a copy of the August 18 e-mail with the video clip. Chief investigator Aleskey Galkin refused to comment when asked by CPJ why his team exceeded the limits of the search warrant.

Prosecutors questioned Grani.ru General Director Yulia Berezovskaya (no relationship to Boris Berezovsky) and military correspondent Vladimir Ermolin about the e-mail today.

Berezovksy—who recently received political asylum in the United Kingdom due to politically motivated corruption charges brought against him by Russian prosecutors—had previously controlled the influential Moscow-based independent national television channel TV-6.

Russian Press Minister Mikhail Lesin ordered the channel off the air in January 2002 after a legal battle between the television network and a minority shareholder with strong ties to the Kremlin, the oil giant LUKOIL.

OCTOBER 9, 2003
Updated: October 13, 2004

Aleksei Sidorov, Tolyatinskoye Obozreniye
KILLED

Sidorov, the editor-in-chief of the independent daily Tolyatinskoye Obozreniye, was murdered in Togliatti, a city on the Volga River 600 miles (960 kilometers) east of the capital, Moscow.

Sidorov was the second editor-in-chief of Tolyatinskoye Obozreniye to be murdered in the last two years. His predecessor, Valery Ivanov, was shot at point-blank range in April 2002.

According to local press reports, two unidentified assailants stabbed Sidorov several times in the chest late in the evening while he was approaching the apartment building in Togliatti where he lived with his family. The assailants fled after stabbing Sidorov, and the editor died in his wife's arms after she heard his call for help and came down to the entrance of their building.

Journalists at Tolyatinskoye Obozreniye-a newspaper known for its investigative reporting on organized crime, government corruption, and shady corporate deals in the heavily industrialized city of Togliatti-are convinced the murder is in retaliation for Sidorov's work.

"All of our investigative work was supervised by Aleksei," a journalist at Tolyatinskoye Obozreniye told CPJ. Another journalist at the paper told CPJ that Sidorov had received unspecified threats in retaliation for his work.

Government officials initially agreed that Sidorov's murder appeared to be a contract killing in retaliation for his work. But a week after the killing, officials began offering conflicting explanations about the motive for the murder. On October 16, the local head of the Interior Ministry, Vladimir Shcherbakov, said Sidorov was stabbed after refusing to give a stranger a sip of some vodka he had supposedly been drinking, the independent Moscow daily Gazeta reported.

That same day, Deputy Prosecutor General Vladimir Kolesnikov said the murder was related to "the journalist's professional activity," the independent Moscow daily Kommersant reported. But the next day, he switched his story, calling the murder "an act of hooliganism," the ITAR-TASS news agency reported.

According to the local press reports, Samara's Deputy Prosecutor General Yevgeny Novozhylov said that an intoxicated welder from one of the local factories, Yevgeny Maininger, stumbled upon Sidorov that evening and murdered him after a brief argument. Local police detained Maininger on October 12 and charged him with murder on October 21 after he confessed to the killing.

Sidorov's family and journalists at Tolyatinskoye Obozreniye were skeptical that authorities had found the true killer-and a year later, a Russian district court judge confirmed their doubts by acquitting Maininger.

On October 11, 2004, Judge Andrei Kirillov found that the 29-year-old Maininger was not involved in Sidorov's murder and said the prosecution's case was untenable, the independent Moscow daily Kommersant reported.

Sidorov's father said the family was pleased that the acquittal ended what they considered to be a flawed investigation. "The investigation, instead of seeking out the real killer of my son, tried to dump everything on this innocent person," said Vladimir Sidorov, according to local press reports. "We will do everything possible to ensure that [authorities] start a normal investigation."

Karen Nersisian, the defense lawyer representing the Sidorov family, said he will work to have the case transferred to a higher court in Moscow, according to local press reports.