New York, April 20, 2017-- Russian federal authorities should swiftly bring to justice all those responsible for the murder of Nikolai Andrushchenko, co-founder of the weekly newspaper Novy Peterburg, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. The journalist, known for his reporting on corruption and police brutality, died in a St. Petersburg hospital yesterday of injuries sustained in a beating last month. His killing marks the first CPJ has recorded of a journalist in Russia since 2013.
Andrushchenko, 73, was on his way to a business meeting on March 9 when unknown assailants severely beat him, according to press reports. Andrushchenko's colleague, Alevtina Ageyeva, told CPJ that she was not aware of any witnesses to the attack. He was found unconscious several hours later and taken to a hospital where doctors performed brain surgery and left him in a medically induced coma, Ageyeva said. He died April 19 without regaining consciousness, she said, adding that recently "his state was improving; he had started breathing on his own."
"We call on Russian security officials to carry out a thorough and independent investigation into the brutal murder of Nikolai Andrushchenko and to bring all those responsible for his murder to justice," CPJ Europe and Central Asia Program Coordinator Nina Ognianova said. "Journalists in Russia have consistently been killed with impunity, and only complete, credible prosecution will break the cycle of violence."
Russia has long been a dangerous place to work as a journalist, with at least 56 killed in the line of duty since CPJ began keeping detailed records in 1992. Of those, 36 were murdered in direct retaliation for their work, and only two of those murders have been fully prosecuted, CPJ research shows.
Andrushchenko was known for his criticism of Russian President Vladimir Putin and his investigative reports alleging corruption and human rights abuses, including by local police. Ageyeva, who co-founded Novy Peterburg with Andrushchenko in 1990, told CPJ that the journalist was a "constant irritant for the authorities," and added that she had "no doubt that he was killed for his journalism."
Ageyeva told CPJ that St. Petersburg police launched an investigation after the March 9 attack, but that Andrushchenko's colleagues at Novy Peterburg had not been questioned in connection with the probe, and that the newspaper had not been notified of any progress in the investigation.
Ageyeva also told CPJ that Andrushchenko had suffered physical attacks in the past. In November 2016, she said, several assailants beat him on his doorstep. Ageyeva said that his attackers couldn't "finish the job" because the journalist's neighbors interfered.
He was also beaten in November 2007, weeks before police raided the newspaper's office and a court jailed him for two months' pretrial detention on charges of defamation and obstruction of justice stemming from his reporting on a murder investigation, CPJ reported at the time.
"He endured many physical attacks and made it through every time," Ageyeva told CPJ. "But not this time."