Ifanov, a 29-year-old cameraman for the independent television station Novoye Televideniye Aleiska (NTA) in the Siberian city of Aleisk, was found dead in his garage with his car running. On August 4, the Aleisk prosecutor’s office ruled that there was no evidence of foul play. An autopsy found that he died from self-induced carbon monoxide poisoning.
The night before he died, Ifanov was featured on the syndicated television news program “Nashi Novosti.” He described a January attack against him by unidentified members of a local military reconnaissance unit. In the April 4 broadcast, Ifanov said he hoped to identify his attackers soon with the help of police, the Moscow-based daily Izvestiya reported.
Local press reports quoted Ifanov describing the January 21 attack. Ifanov said he was filming what he thought was a suspicious gathering of men in camouflage gear in the center of Aleisk. The men, seeing Ifanov filming them, assaulted the journalist and broke his camera, he said. During the attack, Ifanov said, the men told him, “We warned you that military reconnaissance works here, but you didn’t listen.” The journalist sustained a concussion in the attack and spent several days in the hospital, according to local press reports.
Ifanov was found dead on April 5 by a neighbor, who heard the journalist’s car running with the garage doors shut. Neighbor Viktor Langolf said Ifanov’s body was slumped between his car and one of the garage walls, the Moscow-based news agency Regnum reported. Langolf said the garage doors were locked from the inside, according to local press reports. Police said there were no signs of violence, press reports said.
Sergei Plotnikov, a journalist who investigated the case for the Moscow-based press freedom group Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations, said he examined photos of the scene, and they did not reflect signs of a struggle.
Relatives, friends, and colleagues were skeptical Ifanov took his own life, according to local press reports. The autopsy report contained omissions and conflicting information, Izvestiya reported. For example, Izvestiya said, the report placed the body in two different locations in the garage.
On April 4, Ifanov worked until 7 p.m. and then spent the rest of the evening with a friend, Aleksandr Udin, who said the journalist had been in a good mood, according to local press reports. Udin said that the journalist mentioned there was some progress in the January attack but did not elaborate, Izvestiya reported. Ifanov left Udin’s house at around 2 a.m. The autopsy said the journalist died about two hours later, Regnum reported.
Local press reports said that Ifanov had received threats prior to his death and was told to withdraw his criminal complaint in the January attack. NTA Director Yevgeny Filippov told CPJ he was unaware of threats against Ifanov.