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Russia1 July 2005

Journalist gunned down in southwestern republic

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Reporters Without Borders today condemned the killing of Magomedzagid Varisov, the second journalist to be murdered this year in Russia, and called on interior minister Rashid Nurgaliyev to order an immediate investigation aimed at identifying both perpetrators and instigators and bringing them to justice.

Varisov was gunned down at around 9 p.m. on 28 June in Makhachkala (the capital of the southwestern republic of Dagestan) as he was getting out of his car in front of his home. He died instantly, while his driver, who was wounded by several shots, was hospitalized. His wife, who was also with him, was not hit. The police said they were looking for a black Lada car which the gunmen used to get away.

It seems likely that Varisov was killed because of his work as a journalist. The head of the political section of the weekly Novoye Delo, he was very critical of the Dagestan opposition in his articles. He also headed the Republican Centre for Strategic and Political Initiatives.

In a recent article, he raised questions about the fact that some 1,000 refugees from the Chechen village of Borozdinovskaya (in the Chelkovsky region) crossed illegally into Dagestan after a Russian special forces raid on the village. He accused the Dagestan opposition of exploiting the situation to stir up hate between the Chechen and Dagestanian communities.

Varisov’s murder came just as Novoye Delo was about to publish a second article naming those responsible for the ease of cross-border movements between Dagestan and Chechnya. Varisov and the newspaper had been receiving telephone death threats during the past year and Varisov had told his colleagues he had been followed several times.

On 30 June, the website posted a letter from the Wahhabi Islamist group "Sharia" claiming responsibility for the murder. "We punished the one who was the FSB collaborator, who was the spokesman for Kremlin propaganda and for those who are in power in Dagestan, and who was one of the ideologues of the struggle against the establishment of the Sharia in Dagestan," the message said. The FSB is the new name for the KGB.

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