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Ukraine3 March 2006

Arson attack at editor’s home appears linked to her work

An arson attack at the home of leading journalist Lilia Budjurova, editor of the weekly Pervaya Krimskaya, was most likely linked to her work, said Reporters Without Borders, urging the authorities to take the professional lead into account.

The attack on the home of Budjurova, who chairs Crimea’s Association of Independent Journalists, was made overnight on 28 February-1st March 2006, in Simferopol, capital of the autonomous republic of Crimea.

Fire broke out at around 1am, after petrol was thrown in front of the garage on the ground floor of her home. The journalist was at work and her car was not inside. Members of her family, woken by the smell of smoke, managed to put out the fire before it destroyed the house.

Budjurova said on the phone that one of her family looked out of a window and saw two men running away.

In the latest issue of the newspaper, which has a circulation of 32,000, it carried the list of candidates to parliamentary elections in Crimea on 26 March, having previously had problems with Ukrainian courts. Budjurova said she was convinced that publication of the list obtained from the interior ministry, was behind the arson attack.

“I am certain that the fire is linked to my professional work,” she told Reporters Without Borders. “I am not a businesswoman and I have neither enemies nor personal problems. On the other hand we were the only ones to carry that list.”

“I don’t know if the fire was meant to intimidate me or to really threaten my life, but the smoke it produced could have had tragic consequences for members of my family who were in the house,” she said.

Budjurova is a prominent journalist in Ukraine and an activist for journalists’ rights, particularly in Crimea. She protested about the imprisonment in June 2005 of editor of the weekly Yevpatoriskaya Nedelia, Volodymyr Lutiev, for which stance she received telephone threats.

President Viktor Yuschchenko told interior minister Yuri Lutsenko that he would take personal charge of the case.

“Acts of intimidation are frequent in Ukraine, particularly during election campaigns,” the press freedom organisation said. “It seems that Lilia Budjurova may have paid for her investigative work. We urge the authorities to investigate this case and to take the professional lead into account”.

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