Editor shot dead in Russia’s Siberia

New York, May 25, 2017–Russian authorities must bring to justice those responsible for the killing of Dmitry Popkov, chief editor of independent local newspaper Ton-M in Siberia, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. Popkov’s body was found with five bullet wounds in his backyard late last night in the city of Minusinsk in the Siberian region of Krasnoyarsk Krai, Russian and international media reported. Popkov is the second journalist to be killed in Russia this year.

“We call on Russian authorities to conduct a thorough, unbiased, and effective investigation into the brutal slaying of Dmitry Popkov and bring those responsible to justice,” CPJ Europe and Central Asia Program Coordinator Nina Ognianova said. “Russia is a country where too many journalists have been murdered for their work while their killers walk free. This toxic cycle of impunity must be reversed once and for all.”

Popkov, 42, who co-founded Ton-M in 2014, was known for his investigative reports on abuse of power and corruption, as well as his criticism of functionaries from the leading Kremlin-backed United Russia party. The newspaper, published under the motto, “We write what other people stay silent about,” was well-known in Krasnoyarsk Krai and had been subject to threats and pressure from authorities. It has also been the target of politically motivated police raids, according to media reports. In an August 2016 editorial, Popkov wrote that Ton-M was “accustomed to being a pain in the neck for many officials who are trying to [silence us] in every possible way,” through “phone threats, intimidating searches, and interrogations.” He added that the authorities were concerned about the “corruption incidents that we reveal.”

Sergei Shishov, editor of the Minusinsk-based independent news website Sreda24, said in an interview with the Russian daily Komsomolskaya Pravda today that Popkov was killed for his journalism, particularly for his recent reports about a federal parliamentary audit that revealed corruption in the local administration.

The regional branch of Russia’s Investigative Committee–the government agency tasked with investigating major crimes–said in a statement today that a probe had been launched into the killing and that the journalist’s work was being treated as a potential motive for the murder.

Popkov is the second journalist killed this year in Russia. On April 19, 2017, Nikolai Andrushchenko, co-founder of Novy Peterburg, died in a St. Petersburg hospital of injuries sustained in a beating a month earlier. He was known for his reporting on corruption and police brutality.