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Russia3 February 2004

Small bomb goes off outside apartment of journalist who wrote book about Kremlin

Reporters Without Borders voiced concern today about the explosive device that went off yesterday on the landing outside the apartment of journalist Elena Tregubova, the author of a much-discussed book about the Kremlin published last year.

The organisation said the incident should be taken seriously and asked state prosecutor Vladimir Ustinov to ensure that investigators do not readily give up their enquiries. Tregubova said she thought the bombing was intended as a "warning" just a few weeks before the 14 March presidential election.

Tregubova said the device went off just as she was getting ready to leave her apartment. Placed on the door of an unoccupied neighbouring apartment, it caused some damage but no injuries. Tregubova said she had just spoken by telephone with the driver of the taxi waiting for her outside when the explosion took place. She said she assumed her telephone was very probably tapped.

The police initially refused to register Tregubova’s complaint. They estimated that the device consisted of just 50 to 100 grams of explosive and said this would not have been enough to kill her. Today, after the attack was reported in the press, the city of Moscow’s internal affairs department said she could file a complaint after all.

Tregubova pointed out that there is a police post in the ground-floor of her building and voiced amazement that someone could set off a bomb in broad daylight in the centre of Moscow and just walk away.

She said she had not received any threats, but had been puzzled by a phone call she received last week from someone claiming to work at Moscow’s Cheremetevo airport. The caller had asked her for her address in order to forward a package that had supposedly arrived for her from an American company. She never heard anything more about the package.

Tregubova is a former Kremlin correspondent for the daily Izvestia and a former contributor to the daily Kommersant. Her book, called "Tales of a Kremlin Digger," is a collection of anecdotes about the Kremlin.

The national television channel NTV was to have dedicated a segment of its programme "Namedni" to the book on 17 November. But just a few hours before it was due to go out on the air in the Moscow region, the segment was cancelled by NTV director Nikolai Senkevich.

Senkevich denied that he was forced to withdraw the item on Tregubova’s book and said the decision was taken simply because the book was too vulgar for this kind of programme. But both Tregubova and the programme’s producer, Andrei Shilov, attributed it to political censorship.

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