Moscow court closes case against accused mastermind in Domnikov murder

New York, May 14, 2015–The Committee to Protect Journalists is dismayed that the statute of limitations in the case of the 2000 killing of a Russian journalist ran out with authorities failing to take timely action against the individual accused of being the mastermind.

On Wednesday, the Lyublinsky court in Moscow closed the case against Sergei Dorovskoi, former deputy governor of the Lipetsk region of Russia, who was charged in March with inciting the 2000 attack on Igor Domnikov, according to news reports. Domnikov, a reporter and special-projects editor for the independent, Moscow-based newspaper Novaya Gazeta, died on July 16, 2000, two months after he was beaten with a hammer outside his apartment

The statute of limitations for the case expired on Tuesday, the court said. According to Novaya Gazeta, the only option left for Domnikov’s family is to hold Dorovskoi accountable in a civil court.

In an editorial today, Novaya Gazeta spelled out its staff’s years-long efforts to help bring all of Domnikov’s killers to justice, and criticized the official investigation: “Until we requested the personal involvement in the case of the head of the Investigative Committee [the federal agency tasked with solving serious crimes in Russia], Aleksandr Bastrykin, the investigation was dreadful,” the paper said, “We should say it directly–it was skillfully obstructed.”

Prosecutors accused Dorovskoi of asking his business partner, Pavel Sopot, to “take care” of Domnikov after the journalist wrote articles accusing the Lipetsk government of nepotism, corruption, and an inability to carry out effective anti-crime and agricultural policies in the region, according to Novaya Gazeta, which cited court documents. Sopot passed Dorovskoi’s “request” to Eduard Tagiryanov, the leader of a notorious criminal group, the case materials said.

“Prosecutors, family members, and Novaya Gazeta itself all believe that the evidence in Sergei Dorovskoi’s involvement is compelling, so it is devastating that the clock ran out and justice will not be served,” CPJ Europe and Central Asia Program Coordinator Nina Ognianova said. “No mastermind has ever been held responsible in the killing of a journalist in Russia, and that unfortunate record remains intact.”

In August 2007, five members of the criminal gang were convicted of murdering Domnikov and sentenced to varying prison terms. Sopot was convicted in 2013 of inciting Domnikov’s murder and was handed a seven-year prison term, reports said.

Russia has consistently featured in CPJ’s Global Impunity Index, a list of counties where journalists are slain and their killers go free.