Armed man pursues journalist in Moscow

Moscow, July 7, 2011The Committee to Protect Journalists calls on Moscow police to thoroughly investigate today’s incident involving Vadim Rechkalov, a political commentator with the popular daily newspaper Moskovsky Komsomolets, in which an unknown man threatened him with a gun. 

Rechkalov was driving into Moscow from the suburbs when a sedan approached his car from behind as the vehicles entered a tunnel on Novorizhskoye Highway, the journalist told CPJ in a phone interview. The sedan swerved and the journalist saw the driver, a man around 30 years old in dark sunglasses, reach for a handgun and aim at him. Rechkalov told CPJ no shots were fired. The sedan chased Rechkalov for a few minutes and the man tried to cut him off again as the two cars exited the tunnel, he said.

Rechkalov has reported and commented on sensitive issues such as the conflict in the volatile North Caucasus region, corruption, and political murders, including the assassination in Moscow last month of former Russian Colonel Yuri Budanov, a tank commander convicted and imprisoned in 2003 for murdering a Chechen woman three years prior, and granted an early release in 2009.

It is unclear whether the police have opened an investigation.

“We call on the police to carry out a thorough investigation into this incident, including into the possibility that the threat against Rechkalov was connected to his work as a journalist,” CPJ Europe and Central Asia Program Coordinator Nina Ognianova said. “Police should be able to identify and detain the man who threatened the journalist.”

Rechkalov said he had called the emergency police number but the dispatchers on duty were unable to determine his location and no officers were sent to the scene. Two hours later, district police called and asked Rechkalov about what happened. The journalist told CPJ that he described the assailant and reported his license plate number.