On July 3, 2001, in Slavyansk, the Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine, unidentified attackers with baseball bats beat Aleksandrov, the director of local independent television broadcaster Tor, as he entered the station’s offices, according to local news reports.
Aleksandrov was rushed to the local city hospital, where he underwent surgery. The journalist never regained consciousness and died from head injuries on the morning of July 7.
Tor deputy director Sergey Cherneta described the attack to the regional newspaper Donbass: “All of a sudden we heard…blows and screams, after that we heard a moan. I ran downstairs….Our manager was lying in the lobby in a pool of blood with his head cracked open. Two large baseball bats were left nearby.”
Aleksandrov’s colleagues believe the killing was connected to his television program, “Bez Retushi” (Without Censorship), which featured investigative coverage of government corruption and organized crime. The program often criticized Slavyansk municipal authorities.
Donetsk regional prosecutor Viktor Pshonka launched an official investigation following the attack. The chief of the Donetsk Administration of Internal Affairs, General Vladimir Malyshev, stated that revenge was the leading motive in the killing but did not elaborate.
Aleksandrov became well known in 1998, when prosecutors brought a criminal case against him for insulting the honor and dignity of a parliamentary deputy. The Slavyansk City Court initially found the journalist guilty but later reviewed its decision after criticism from Ukrainian journalists and international human rights organizations.
The deputy withdrew his defamation complaint against the journalist in 2000. That removed the immediate legal threat but did not clear Aleksandrov’s name, since his conviction was still technically under review. Claiming damage to his professional reputation, Aleksandrov
appealed to the European Court of Human Rights, where the case was pending at the time of his death.
In late August 2001, law enforcement officials arrested an unnamed suspect, according to local press reports. The officials claimed that Aleksandrov’s killing was a case of mistaken identity and was not connected with his journalism.
A parliamentary investigative commission was established in September to examine Aleksandrov’s killing. In December, the commission voiced doubts about the validity of the “mistaken identity” theory and stated that it knew who had really killed Aleksandrov, according to local reports.
The commission refused to forward that information to law enforcement officials and accused the Ukrainian Security Service of falsifying evidence in the case.
In mid-December 2001, the General Prosecutor’s Office officially charged the suspect detained in August, identified as Yury Veredyuk, with Aleksdandrov’s murder, local and international sources reported. On December 27, the Donetsk Regional Court scheduled Veredyuk’s trial for September 11, 2002.
The Donetsk Court of Appeals acquitted Veredyuk of Aleksandrov’s murder in May 2002, citing a lack of evidence. Veredyuk died soon after being released, and an official investigation into his death found that he had been poisoned, according to news reports.
In 2003, Deputy Prosecutor General Viktor Shokin announced that Aleksandrov’s killing was motivated by his journalistic work, and named five suspects: Aleksandr Rybak, the head of the Kramatorsk organized crime group, as the alleged mastermind; his brother Dmitry Rybak, as the alleged organizer; and Ruslan Tursunov, Aleksandr Onishko, and Sergey Koritskiy, the alleged perpetrators, according to news reports.
The official investigation found that the journalist prepared and broadcast a teaser to an upcoming investigative reporting television program on Rybak, according to media reports. The program was never aired because of Aleksandrov’s death, according to those reports.
In 2006, the Court of Appeals of the Luhansk region convicted the five suspects, and sentenced Dmitriy Rybak to 11 years of imprisonment, his brother Aleksandr to 15 years, Onishko to 12 years and a confiscation of property, Tursunov to six years in jail, and Koritskiy to two years and six months, according to those reports.
In 2012, four former police officers were charged with falsification of the investigation of Aleksandrov’s murder and Veredyuk’s poisoning, according to news reports. The former deputy head of the Kramatorsk police Igor Krivolapov was sentenced to seven years in prison, former police officers Aleksandr Gerasimenko, Albert Vinnichuk, and Sergey Shlomin were sentenced to 8 to 13 years in prison, according to those reports.