Dmitry Popkov

Beats Covered:
Local or Foreign:

Dmitry Popkov, chief editor of the independent local newspaper Ton-M in Siberia, was killed on May 24, 2017. The journalist’s body was found with five bullet wounds in his backyard in the city of Minusinsk, in the Siberian region of Krasnoyarsk Krai, Russian and international media reported.

Popkov, 42, helped found Ton-M in 2014, and was known for his investigative reports alleging abuse of power and corruption, as well as his criticism of officials of the ruling 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, including 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 a May 25 interview with the Russian daily Komsomolskaya Pravda that he believed 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 May 25 statement 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. 

On August 21, 2020, Russia’s Investigative Committee issued a statement about the arrests of two people allegedly involved in the journalist’s killing, Nikolay Goryunov and Viktor Shestakov, a minor. Goryunov was charged with organizing Popkov’s killing, and Shestakov was charged with shooting the journalist.

The statement also said that “Goryunov felt hostility towards Popkov who posted critical articles against him in the newspaper, [and] organized his murder.”    

“Shestakov used a firearm with the silencer, [both] provided by Goryunov, to commit the murder of Popkov in his residency,” the statement said.

On November 2, 2020, law enforcement detained Isa Khashiev, a Minusinsk-based businessman and a politician, at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport when he was trying to board a plane to Russia’s North Caucasus republic of Ingushetia, according to news reports and a statement published on the website of the regional court. On November 4, 2020, Khashiev appeared before a judge in the Minusinsk city court and was charged with organizing the journalist’s murder; the judge ordered him placed under arrest pending investigation, according to the court’s statement.

On June 21, 2022, the Minusinsk city court found Goryunov guilty of participation in Popkov’s murder, enticement of a minor into a crime, theft of weapons and ammunition, and illegal storage of weapons, and sentenced him to 17 years in a high-security prison and one year and 10 months of restricted freedom, according to media reports. In March 2023, the Krasnoyarsk regional court reduced Goryunov’s sentence to 16 years and 10 months.

On June 2, 2023, the same court convicted Khashiev of organizing the murder and sentenced him to 16 years in a high-security prison; one year and 6 months of restricted freedom; and issued a 2-million ruble (US$20,900) fine “in compensation for moral damage,” according to multiple media reports and Russian state news agency RIA Novosti.

The court also convicted Shestakov of murder and sentenced him to 14 years in prison and 18 months of restricted freedom, those reports said.

Goryunov pleaded guilty, but both Khashiev and Shestakov denied the charges, according to multiple media reports. During the trial, Shestakov stated that people linked to Goryunov had pressured and beaten him into giving false testimony while he was in detention, according to those reports. CPJ was unable to independently confirm those allegations.  CPJ emailed the branch of Russia’s Investigative Committee for Krasnoyarsk Krai but did not receive any response. CPJ was unable to find contact details for Popkov’s family.