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Russia18 February 2005

Sidorov case reopened but local prosecutor’s office still in charge

Reporters Without Borders today hailed the announced reopening of the investigation into the October 2003 murder of journalist Alexei Sidorov but voiced concern that the local prosecutor’s office is still in charge of the case and reiterated its call for it to be transferred to the Russian Federation prosecutor-general.

The reopening of the case was announced by Samara regional deputy prosecutor Evgeni Novojilov who, according to a report in the daily Izvestia on 14 February, said two new leads would be followed up that were unrelated to those previously pursued. He said one involved a well-known regional crime organization but he have no further details.

While welcoming the reopening of the case as "positive" as far as it went, Reporters Without Borders said it again called on Russian Federation prosecutor-general Vladimir Ustinov "to personally take over the investigation in order to guarantee its transparency and objectivity."

The editor of the regional daily newspaper Toliattinskoye Obosrenie, Sidorov was stabbed by two men in the parking lot of his apartment building in the city of Togliatti on 9 October 2003 and died moments later in the arms of his wife. Aged 31, he had taken over as editor from Valery Ivanov, who had been murdered in similar circumstances on 29 April 2002.

Before being named editor, Sidorov worked as an investigative journalist for the newspaper, and a few weeks before his death he had gone back to investigating organized crime.

On 11 October 2004, local welder Evgeni Maininger was acquitted by a Togliatti court of Sidorov’s murder on the grounds of lack of proof. He had been accused of killing him in a street brawl. According to the official version, Maininger met Sidorov in the street by chance and asked for a loan to buy vodka. A fight broke out when Sidorov refused and Maininger allegedly stabbed him several times before fleeing and throwing away the murder weapon in a forest.

After a fact-finding visit to Togliatti in October 2003, Reporters Without Borders expressed reserves about the quality of the investigation being conducted by the local prosecutor’s office. It was in October 2004 that Reporters Without Borders first asked Prosecutor-General Ustinov to take over the investigation on the grounds that the local prosecutor’s office was unsuited.




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