Journalists Killed in Russia 2000-2003

Vladimir Yatsina, ITAR-TASS, February 20, 2000, Chechnya

Yatsina, a photographer with the Russian news agency ITAR-TASS, was killed in Chechnya by Chechen militants who had taken him hostage. Two former hostages, Alisher Orazaliyev from Kazakhstan, and Kirill Perchenko from Moscow, reported the killing in statements recorded by Amnesty International after their release at the end of February.

According to their accounts, Yatsina was suffering from food poisoning and foot pain and fell behind the other hostages during a forced march from the town of Urus-Martan to the mountains of Shatoi. The Chechen guards then shot him dead. Orazaliyev and Perchenko saw his body the next day when they returned along the same road.

Yatsina was kidnapped in the Ingush capital, Nazran, on July 19, 1999. A month later, the kidnappers contacted his family and demanded a ransom of US$2 million. In November, the kidnappers contacted ITAR-TASS and demanded the same amount.

Orazaliyev and Perchenko said the kidnappers were a well-organized group of around 70 Chechens. They believed their capture was motivated by the hope of economic gain. Kidnapping has become a major source of financing for criminals and militant groups in Chechnya. As a result, hundreds of civilians have been held captive over the last four years.

Yatsina, 51, joined ITAR-TASS in 1979.

Aleksandr Yefremov, Nashe Vremya, May 12, 2000, Chechnya

Yefremov, a photographer for the western Siberian newspaper Nashe Vremya, was killed in Chechnya when the military jeep he was riding in was blown up by a remote-controlled mine, according to Galina Golovanova, the paper’s editor. Two police officers who accompanied Yefremov from Tyumen were also killed in the explosion.

The jeep was blown up after turning off the main road near the Russian-controlled village of Kirov, just two-and-a-half miles from the Chechen capital, Grozny.

Yefremov, 41, had arrived in Grozny on May 10; it was his third trip to Chechnya since 1995.

Igor Domnikov, Novaya Gazeta, July 16, 2000, Moscow

Domnikov, 42, a reporter and special-projects editor for the twice-weekly Moscow paper Novaya Gazeta, died two months after being attacked in the entryway of his apartment building in southeastern Moscow.

According to numerous sources, the reporter was attacked on May 12 by an unidentified assailant who hit him repeatedly on the head with a heavy object, presumably a hammer, and left him lying unconscious in a pool of blood, where a neighbor found him. Domnikov was taken to a hospital with injuries to the skull and brain. After surgery and two months in a coma, the journalist died on July 16 in the Burdenko Neurosurgery Institute in central Moscow.

From the very beginning, Domnikov’s colleagues and the police were certain the attack was related to his professional activity or that of the newspaper’s. It was also believed for a while that the assailant mistook Domnikov, who covers social and cultural issues, for a Novaya Gazeta investigative reporter named Oleg Sultanov, who lives in the same building. Sultanov claimed to have received threats from the Federal Security Service in January for his reporting on corruption in the Russian oil industry.

According to the paper’s editorial staff, the Interior Ministry was actively investigating the brutal attack and promised Domnikov’s colleagues to finish the investigation by the end of the summer if the latter agreed not to interfere or disclose any details of the case to the public. However, in early fall, the police downgraded the case’s high-priority status and “archived” it, as allowed by law for cases unresolved within three months.

Domnikov’s colleagues were not informed about the downgrade. As they explained to CPJ, “archiving” does not mean outright closure of the investigation: The case may be reopened if new information emerges, but this did not appear likely at year’s end.

Sergey Novikov, Radio Vesna, July 26, 2000, Smolensk

Novikov, 36, owner of the only independent radio station in Smolensk, was shot and killed at around 9:00 p.m. in the stairwell of his apartment building. The killer shot him four times and then escaped through a back door.

Radio Vesna often criticized the government of Smolensk Province. On July 23, Novikov took part in a television panel that discussed the alleged corruption of the provincial deputy governor. Novikov’s employees believed his murder was politically motivated. He reportedly received death threats earlier in the year after announcing his intent to run for the provincial governorship.

Novikov was also one of the most successful businesspeople in the region, serving on the board of directors of a local glass-making factory.

At year’s end, a Radio Vesna staff member told CPJ that the killer remained at large, that the investigation was continuing, and that police had not yet determined a motive.

Iskandar Khatloni, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, September 21, 2000, Moscow

Khatloni, a reporter for the Tajik-language service of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL), was attacked late at night in his Moscow apartment by an unknown, axe-wielding assailant. The door of his apartment was not damaged, indicating there was no forced entry and that the journalist might have known his attacker.

Khatloni, 46, was struck twice in the head, according to RFE/RL’s Moscow bureau. He then stumbled onto the street and collapsed and was later found by a passerby. The journalist died later that night in Moscow’s Botkin Hospital. Local police opened a murder investigation but had made little progress at year’s end.

Khatloni had worked since 1996 as a Moscow-based journalist for the Tajik service of the U.S.-funded RFE/RL, which broadcasts daily news programming to Tajikistan.

A RFE/RL spokeswoman said that at the time of his death, Khatloni had been working on stories about the Russian military’s human-rights abuses in Chechnya. Earlier in the year, a senior official in Russia’s Media Ministry charged that RFE/RL was “hostile to our state.”

However, Khatloni’s colleagues also speculated that the journalist might have been killed because of unpaid debts, or in a random hate crime.

Sergey Ivanov, Lada-TV, October 3, 2000, Togliatti

At around 10 p.m., unknown gunmen killed Ivanov, the director of the largest independent television company in Togliatti, a town in Samara Province, in front of his apartment building. Ivanov was shot five times in the head and chest.

Lada-TV, which the 30-year-old Ivanov had headed since 1993, was a significant player on the local political scene. At year’s end, investigators had not ruled out a possible commercial or programming dispute as motivation for the murder. Station staffers told CPJ that they had no idea about the motive.

Adam Tepsurgayev, Reuters, November 21, 2000, Chechnya

Tepsurgayev, a 24-year-old Chechen cameraman, was shot dead at a neighbor’s house in the village of Alkhan-Kala. His brother Ali was wounded in the leg during the attack.

A Russian government spokesman blamed Chechen guerrillas for the murder. The gunmen reportedly speoke Chechen, but local residents said the militants had no reason to kill the cameraman.

During the first Chechen war (1994-1996), Tepsurgayev worked as a driver and fixer for foreign journalists. Later, he started shooting footage from the front lines of the conflict between Russian troops and separatist guerrillas. Reuters’ Moscow bureau chief, Martin Nesirky, described him as an “irregular contributor.”

While most of Reuters’ footage from Chechnya in 2000 was credited to Tepsurgayev, including shots of Chechen field commander Shamil Basayev having his foot amputated, he had not worked for Reuters in the six months before he died.

Eduard Markevich, Novy Reft, September 18, 2001, Reftinsky, Sverdlovsk Region
Markevich, 29, editor and publisher of Novy Reft, the local newspaper in the town of Reftinsky, Sverdlovsk Region, was found dead on September 18. He had been shot in the back.

Novy Reft often criticized local officials, and Markevich’s colleagues told the Itar-Tass news service that he had received threatening telephone phone calls prior to the attack.

This was not the first attack on Markevich, the Region-Inform news agency reported. In 1998, two unknown assailants broke into his apartment and severely beat him in front of his pregnant wife. They were never caught.

Last year, Markevich was illegally detained for 10 days after the local prosecutor’s office charged him with defamation over a Novy Reft article questioning the propriety of a lucrative government contract that gave a former deputy prosecutor the exclusive right to represent the Reftinsky administration in court.

In May 2001, federal prosecutor general Vladimir Ustinov reprimanded the local prosecutor for violating Markevich’s constitutional rights. Police have launched an investigation into Markevich’s murder. Almost four months after the journalist’s death, authorities have made no progress, the Moscow-based Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations has reported. Markevich’s wife continues to publish Novy Reft.

Sergei Kalinovsky, Moskovsky Komsomolets–Smolensk, Date unknown, Smolensk

The body of 26-year-old Kalinovsky, editor-in-chief of the daily Moskovsky Komsomolets–Smolensk, was found on April 1 beside a lake outside the city of Smolensk in central Russia.

Kalinovsky, who reported on local politics and crime for the Smolensk edition of the Moscow daily Moskovsky Komsomolets and the local SCS television station, disappeared on the evening of December 14, 2001. Local police have opened a criminal investigation and are considering several possible motives for the murder, but no suspects had been detained by year’s end.

In March 2001, Kalinovsky’s apartment was damaged by a fire that he suspected was set in retaliation for his work, according to online news service NTVRU.COM. Local investigators, however, ruled out arson as a cause.

Natalya Skryl, Nashe Vremya, March 9, 2002, Rostov-on-Don

Skryl, a business reporter working for the Nashe Vremya newspaper in the city of Rostov-on-Don in southwestern Russia, died from head injuries sustained during an attack the previous evening.

Late on the night of March 8, Skryl was returning to her home in the town of Taganrog, just outside Rostov-on-Don, when she was attacked from behind and struck in the head about a dozen times with a heavy, blunt object.

Neighbors called an ambulance and the police after hearing her scream. Skryl was found unconscious just outside her home and taken to Taganrog Hospital, where she died the following day.

Skryl, 29, reported on local business issues for a newspaper owned by Rostov regional authorities. Just before her death, she was investigating an ongoing struggle for the control of Tagmet, a local metallurgical plant. Nashe Vremya editor-in-chief Vera Yuzhanskaya believes that Skryl’s death was related to her professional activities, the ITAR-TASS news agency reported.

Since opening an investigation shortly after the murder, officials have changed their theories several times. Initially, the prosecutor’s office said that because Skryl was carrying jewelry and a large sum of cash that were not taken at the time of her murder, robbery could be ruled out as a motive.

But on July 24, the Taganrog Directorate of Internal Affairs announced that robbery was the motive, and that the crime was unrelated to her journalistic activities, the Ekho Rosotova radio station reported.

Taganrog authorities switched their story yet again on September 5, Nashe Vremya editor-in-chief Vera Yuzhanskaya told CPJ, when they closed the murder investigation without officially identifying the reason for the murder.

Grigory Bochkarov, a local analyst in Rostov-on-Don for the Moscow-based Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations, told CPJ that the only credible motive for Skryl’s murder was her reporting about Tagmet and that police had emphasized the robbery motive in an effort to play down the significance of the case.

Just prior to her death, Skryl reportedly told several colleagues that she had recently obtained sensitive information about the Tagmet story and was planning to publish an article revealing this information.
Valery Ivanov, Tolyatinskoye Obozreniye, April 29, 2002, Togliatti

Ivanov, editor of the newspaper Tolyatinskoye Obozreniye in the southern Russian city of Togliatti, was shot dead outside his home at approximately 11 p.m.

Ivanov, 32, was shot eight times in the head at point-blank range while entering his car, a colleague at the newspaper told CPJ.

Eyewitnesses saw a 25- to 30-year-old man walk up to Ivanov’s car and shoot him, according to local press reports and CPJ sources. The killer used a pistol with a silencer and fled the scene on foot.

Ivanov’s colleagues believe the killing was connected to his work. Tolyatinskoye Obozreniye is well known for its reports on local organized crime, drug trafficking, and official corruption. Ivanov also served as a deputy in the local Legislative Assembly.

Local police have opened a criminal investigation into the murder and are considering several possible motives, though the possibility that he was killed in retaliation for his writing remains the prime theory. At year’s end, no further progress in the investigation had been reported.

Roddy Scott, Frontline, September 26, 2002, Galashki Region, Ingushetia

Roddy Scott, 31, a British free-lance cameraman working for Britain’s Frontline television news agency, was killed in the Russian republic of Ingushetia. Russian soldiers found his body in Ingushetia’s Galashki Region, near the border with Chechnya, following clashes between Russian forces and a group of Chechen fighters.

Scott had accompanied the Chechens as they crossed from Georgia into Russia, United Press International reported.