Kazbek Gekkiyev

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Two assailants shot Kazbek Gekkiyev three times in the head as he was returning home from work with a friend at about 9 p.m. on December 5, 2012, in Nalchik, capital of the republic of Kabardino-Balkaria, according to local and international news reports. Gekkiyev, 28, was a news anchor for the regional affiliate of state-owned broadcaster VGTRK.

The unidentified gunmen asked Gekkiyev his name before firing, according to the state newspaper Rossiiskaya Gazeta. The journalist’s friend was unharmed, news reports said.

In addition to his anchor duties, Gekkiyev covered social issues for VGTRK. Local reporters said several VGTRK journalists had received threats in the past year, prompting some to quit their jobs, according to the Moscow-based independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta, which regularly covers the North Caucasus. The paper said Islamist separatist fighters in the region had started publishing threats online against journalists working for state media and accusing them of “one-sided coverage of events,” Novaya Gazeta reported.

Gekkiyev was the seventh journalist to be murdered in direct relation to his work in the past decade in the North Caucasus region, making it the most dangerous place in Russia for the press.

Regional authorities immediately condemned the killing and pledged that the crime would be solved. President Vladimir Putin ordered investigators to bring Gekkiyev’s killers to justice, the independent news website Gazeta reported. Russia’s Investigative Committee announced in a statement on its website that it was looking into Gekkiyev’s journalism as a motive for his murder. The committee’s spokesman, Vladimir Markin, said the murder was “a threat to other journalists speaking about results of the fight against the bandit underground in the republic,” according to Reuters. Authorities often call insurgents “members of the bandit underground.” 

On December 12, 2012, Markin stated that Gekkiyev was killed because of his professional activity and named illegal armed group member Zeytun Boziyev and his partner Inoyata Tabukhov as the main murder suspects, according to media reports

On January 29, 2013, Zeytun Boziyev was killed in Nalchik during a special operation to detain him, those reports said.