Pavel Makeev

Beats Covered:
Local or Foreign:
Makeev's body was found beside a road on the outskirts of the Rostov region town shortly after the 21-year-old cameraman arrived to film illegal drag racing. Authorities initially classified the death as a traffic accident, but colleagues believed Makeev was killed to prevent his reporting, according to CPJ interviews.

The body, which had multiple bruises and fractures, was found in a ditch around 1 a.m. The road connecting Azov with the town of Bataysk is the site of drag races organized by local young people, which draw large crowds and illegal betting. Residents said the races had been going on for years, but police had not stopped them. Makeev and a colleague had gone to film a race for a report for the Puls television station.   

Police discovered a pool of blood on the road 50 feet (15 meters) from Makeev's body, according to local reports and CPJ interviews, indicating the body might have been dragged to the ditch. No tire marks were found on the pavement. Makeev's video camera and cell phone were missing. Police said they discovered the car that allegedly hit Makeev, but no arrests were reported.

The investigation was transferred to the Rostov regional prosecutor's office. "Investigators do not consider Makeev's professional activity to be a possible motive for the crime," Elena Velikova, press secretary for the prosecutor, told CPJ. But at least two journalists told CPJ that they believed Markeev's death was linked to his work. They noted that reporters who have tried to cover drag racing have often been threatened.

Aleksei Sklyarov, Puls general director, told CPJ that racers would not want to see Makeev report on an illegal event. Grigory Bochkaryov, Rostov expert for the Moscow-based press freedom organization Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations, told CPJ that traffic police often accept bribes in exchange for allowing the drag races. In a report following Makeev's death, Puls said the drag races typically attract large crowds, and it asked why no witnesses had come forward.

Makeev's colleagues conducted their own investigation because Rostov prosecutors would not discuss the case and closed the investigation, claiming an "absence of evidence of a crime," Sklyarov told CPJ. Eyewitnesses told the journalists that a drag racing vehicle struck Makeev, and that a suspected race organizer threw Makeev's camera into a nearby river after watching its footage, Sklayrov said. Colleague Sergei Bondarenko, who had accompanied Makeev to the site, was so shaken by the episode that he left Puls soon afterward, the station reported.

After additional inquiries by CPJ, Rostov prosecutors Vasily said in July 2009 that it had reopened the case.

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