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Belarus22 November 2005

Authorities urged to investigate possibility that Vassili Grodnikov was murdered

Reporters Without Borders today urged the Belarusian authorities to seriously investigate the possibility that journalist Vassili Grodnikov of the opposition daily Narodnaya Volya, whose body was found on 18 October, was murdered, pointing out that new evidence has emerged since the police conducted their initial enquiries.

“Grodnikov was working on a sensitive subject at the time of his death and it is not uncommon in Belarus that journalists are the targets of intimidation or physical attacks when they investigate matters that some people would like to cover up,” the press freedom organisation said.

Dmitri Kirilchik, the investigator in charge of the case, said today that the preliminary enquiry would be concluded on 18 December, once the final conclusions were in from the forensic investigations. But the decision whether or not to open a murder investigation could be taken before that date.

Grodnikov was found dead in his apartment in a Minsk suburb, where investigators discovered blood stains on the wallpaper, a broken table and coagulated blood on the victim’s head. The autopsy revealed that his death was the result of head injuries caused by a blunt object.

Shortly before he died, he had been working on the third of a series or articles about criminal rings that specialise in swindling old people who live alone.

The independent weekly Zhoda also reported that, on the first page of a notepad found on his table, Grodnikov had begun the draft of an article which he had provisionally entitled: “Several intransigent questions for the president and the agencies under his control.”

Meanwhile, the investigations into the October 2004 murder of reporter Veronika Cherkasova and the July 2000 disappearance of cameraman Dmitri Zavadski are at a complete standstill.

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