Newspaper editor’s murder: fact-finding visit raises doubts about official version

first_imgNews October 23, 2003 – Updated on January 20, 2016 Newspaper editor’s murder: fact-finding visit raises doubts about official version Receive email alerts Help by sharing this information “We welcome opening of criminal investigation in Lithuania in response to our complaint against Lukashenko” RSF says Reporters Without Borders went to Togliatti (Volga) on 16-17 October to lookinto the 9 October killing of Alexei Sidorov, the editor of the regionalnewspaper Toliattinskoye Obosrenie. The organisation is worried by the waythe authorities have conducted the investigation, making contradictorystatements and prematurely ruling out any possibility that the murder waslinked to Sidorov’s work. News June 2, 2021 Find out more News News RSF_en BelarusEurope – Central Asia Organisation to go further Reporters Without Borders today raised doubts about official accounts of the 9 October murder of newspaper editor Alexei Sidorov in Togliatti (Volga) after it carried out a fact-finding visit to Togliatti and Samara on 16-17 October with the Glasnost Defence Foundation, a Russian press freedom group.The organisation is concerned at the course which the official investigations have taken. The authorities have already dismissed the possibility of a work-related killing and other important leads on grounds that appear inadequate to Reporters Without Borders. Contradictory statements by officials also indicate that the enquiries are being conducted with a lack of professionalism. The organisation believes that no hypothesis should be ruled out at this early stage and it fears international attention may have encouraged investigators to be rash.The senior staff of the regional newspaper that Sidorov edited, Toliattinskoye Obosrenie, believe that the murder was linked to his work as a journalist and they dismiss the official version that his death was a case of unpremeditated, everyday violence. A suspect accused of killing Sidorov in a street brawl has been held by the authorities since 12 October. Reporters Without Borders notes that those responsible for killing the newspaper’s previous editor, Valery Ivanov, in April 2002 have still not been identified and brought to justice. The organisation calls on the Russian Federation’s public prosecutor, Vladimir Ustinov, to ensure that all leads are considered with great care and that investigators resist the temptation to declare the case closed in an attempt to satisfy international opinion, without exploring all its ins and outs.Sidorov, 31, was stabbed by two men in his apartment building’s parking lot at around 10:00 pm on 9 October. He died a few minutes later in his wife’s arms. The murder weapon was a “zatochka,” a home-made knife of the kind used in prisons, made from a piece metal. Sidorov’s predecessor as editor, Ivanov, died in similar circumstances on 29 April 2002. Sidorov had established favourable relations with the car-maker, AvtoVaz, which is the engine of the region’s economy and which supported the newspaper financially. Before becoming editor, he had been an investigative journalist with the newspaper. He had resumed his investigations into the crime world a few weeks before his death, but neither his colleagues nor his wife know what exactly he was working on.Contradictory official statementsSerious doubt has been cast on the professionalism of the investigation by the contradictory official statements made between 15 and 17 October about the arrests of one or several suspects.Announcing the arrests of a mechanic and an unemployed person on 15 October, the head of the interior ministry in the Volga region, Vladimir Shcherbakov, said that the case was solved and that it was unrelated to Sidorov’s work. The deputy prosecutor of Samara and prosecutor of the city of Togliatti, Evgeni Novozhilov, denied this the next day, saying that two other hypotheses were being considered in addition to unpremeditated violence, namely, that the murder was linked to Sidorov’s work and the possibility that it connected with the newspaper’s proposed sale. The federal inspector for the Samara region, Andrey Kogtev, reiterated on 17 October that two suspects had been arrested. On the afternoon of the same day, Samara prosecutor Alexandre Efremov said the case was solved. This was repeated by interior minister Boris Gryzlov. The official versionThe name of the principal detained suspect was revealed on 18 October. Evgeny Mayninger, a Togliatti welder held since 12 October was accused of killing Sidorov in a brawl. He allegedly encountered Sidorov by chance and asked for a loan of money to buy vodka. Sidorov supposedly refused, a fight broke out, Mayninger stabbed him several times and fled, throwing the knife away in the forest. He allegedly confessed. The identity of the two other suspects who had reportedly been arrested was not revealed.The view of the newspaper’s staffThe Toliattinskoye Obosrenie staff have said several times that they are convinced that the murder was linked to Sidorov’s work. The day after the murder, the newspaper published a report spelling out four possible hypotheses.The first two hypotheses were that the murder could have been linked with either of two articles published in June and July 2003. One was about a conflict between a criminal, Igor Fillipov, and a Samara businessman, Vladimir Zaharchenko. The other was about a gang led by local crime boss Igor Sirotenko. Fillipov might have been taking revenge on the newspaper for reporting that he had tried to attack his adversary and had lost some of his possessions after being interrogated by police. Sirotenko had threatened to sue the newspaper over the other article and he demanded a retraction. The two criminals may also have got together to eliminate Sidorov.The third hypothesis was that Sidorov may had have had dangerous information such as, for example, the location of the hideout of wanted criminal Alexandre Belyakin. Finally, the newspaper thought the murder may also have been linked to the control of Toliattinskoye Obosrenie, as the management had just turned down an offer to buy the newspaper.The staff said they were “hard put to believe the official version” for several reasons. When a reconstruction of the killing was held on the evening of 17 October, the newspaper’s journalists noted that the suspect made a mistake as regards the spot where it took place. At the same time, the suspect’s family has on several occasions said he was not an aggressive type and that he had been at home until about 10 pm, which was when the killing occurred. The newspaper’s staff also maintain that, knowing Sidorov, it is impossible to imagine him taking part in the kind of brawl described by the investigators. 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