Domnikov, 42, a reporter and special-projects editor for the twice-weekly Moscow paper Novaya Gazeta, died two months after being attacked in the entryway of his apartment building in southeastern Moscow.
According to numerous sources, the reporter was attacked on May 12 by an unidentified assailant who hit him repeatedly on the head with a heavy object, presumably a hammer, and left him lying unconscious in a pool of blood, where a neighbor found him.
Domnikov was taken to a hospital with injuries to the skull and brain. After surgery and two months in a coma, the journalist died on July 16 in the Burdenko Neurosurgery Institute in central Moscow.
From the very beginning, Domnikov’s colleagues and the police were certain the attack was related to his professional activity or that of the newspaper’s. It was also believed for a while that the assailant mistook Domnikov, who covers social and cultural issues, for a Novaya Gazeta investigative reporter named Oleg Sultanov, who lives in the same building. Sultanov claimed to have received threats from the Federal Security Service in January for his reporting on corruption in the Russian oil industry.
In August 2007, five members of a notorious criminal gang were convicted of murdering Domnikov. They were sentenced to prison terms varying from 18 years to life for the Domnikov slaying and numerous other crimes.
On March 11, 2015, Sergei Dorovskoi, a former deputy governor of Lipetsk region of Russia, was charged with masterminding Domnikov’s murder, according to Novaya Gazeta. 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 criminal group, the case materials said. Domnikov had written at least five critical reports about Dorovskoi and the region’s governor Oleg Korolyov in 1999 and 2000, according to CPJ research.
On May 13, 2015, Moscow’s Lyublinsky Court closed the case against Dorovskoi, according to news reports. The statute of limitations for the case expired on May 12, the court said. According to Novaya Gazeta, the only option left for Domnikov’s family is to hold Dorovskoi accountable in a civil court.