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Russia12 March 2002

Journalist killed, another escapes assassination attempt

In a letter to Interior Minister Boris Gryzlov, RSF expressed its outrage following the murder of Natalia Skryl, a journalist from "Nashe Vremia" newspaper in Rostov-sur-le-Don (south-western Russia), on 8 March 2002, and the assassination attempt on "Novaya Gazeta" journalist Sergei Solovkin and his wife in Sotchi (south-western Russia) on 11 March.

"Journalists who investigate corruption cases in outlying regions of the country are increasingly threatened. A journalist was killed and another barely escaped assassination within the space of a few days," stated Robert Ménard, the organisation’s secretary-general. "We ask that you take all the necessary measures to ensure that those responsible for the murder and assassination attempt are identified and tried," he added

According to information collected by RSF, Skryl, a journalist from the "Nashe Vremia" newspaper’s business section in Rostov-sur-le-Don, was killed on the evening of 8 March in the area surrounding her home in Taganrog. The journalist was found unconscious with a head injury. She was transported to the local hospital and died a short time later. Vera Yujanskaya, the newspaper’s editor-in-chief, believes that Skryl’s murder is linked to her professional activities as a journalist. She had been investigating the activities of several large companies in the region. An investigation into Skryl’s assassination has been opened.

In addition, Solovkin, a correspondent with the twice-weekly "Novaya Gazeta" in Sotchi, and his wife were attacked in an assassination attempt on 11 March in Sotchi. Between 10:00 and 11:00 p.m. (local time), two armed men fired gunshots at them close to their residence, injuring them slightly. "Novaya Gazeta" has not been able to confirm if the attack was an attempt to kill the journalist or simply an intimidation tactic. The newspaper has attributed the attack to Solovkin’s professional activities. The journalist recently published investigative reports about corruption in the Krasnodar region.

"Novaya Gazeta" has appealed a sentence that threatens the newspaper’s very survival. On 22 February, the Basmanni District Court in Moscow ordered the newspaper to pay thirty million rubles (approx. US$964,617; 1,098,348 euros) in damages and interest to a Mr. Chernov, who is chairman of the tribunal in Krasnodar (south-western Russia). Chernov had filed an action for defamation against the newspaper after its publication of an article in which he was accused of corruption.

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