Russian Newspaper Editor Accuses Top Investigator Of Threatening Deputy's Life

By RFE/RL's Russian Service
The chief editor of the independent "Novaya gazeta" newspaper has accused the head of Russia's federal Investigative Committee of threatening the life of one of his top editors.

Dmitry Muratov told RFE/RL's Russian Service on June 13 that Investigative Committee chief Aleksandr Bastrykin delivered the threat to deputy editor Sergei Sokolov after Sokolov was forcibly taken into a forested area in Moscow.

According to Muratov, Sokolov and Bastrykin had a disagreement in Nalchik, capital of the Russian Republic of Kabardino-Balkaria, last week, after which Bastrykin made a death threat against Sokolov.

According to Muratov, Bastrykin was angered by a "Novaya gazeta" article that accused him of failing to punish the perpetrators of a 2010 mass killing of 12 people by a gang in southern Russia.

No comment was immediately available from the Investigative Committee or other Russian government officials about the alleged incident.

"Sergei Sokolov and Aleksandr Bastrykin had an open disagreement in Nalchik, where Bastrykin himself had invited Sokolov and in which he disagreed with [Sokolov's] assessment of [Bastrykin's] role in the investigation of the Kushchyovskaya [mass murder] case and the release of [former local council member from the United Russia party] Sergei Tsepovyaz, who was involved in the case," Muratov said.

"On the way back, after [Bastrykin's] airplane landed in Moscow, Sokolov was taken to the woods. Mr. Bastrykin personally delivered a monologue in front of Sokolov, which contained a death threat against Mr. Sokolov."

Muratov said he and his staff do not want to get involved in what he called an "information battle" with the Russian authorities. He added that Sokolov had fled Russia in the wake of the incident.

"Our goal is not to start an information battle but to guarantee the safety of one of our top staff members, my deputy Sergei Sokolov," Muratov said. "We have sent him away from the country."

"Novaya gazeta" is known for its critical and investigative coverage of political and social issues.

Several journalists who worked at the newspaper have been killed, including Anna Politkovskaya, who was gunned down in 2006 after authoring coverage critical of the war in Chechnya.

In a related development on June 13, police arrested five journalists who picketed the Investigative Committee's headquarters in Moscow to protest the reported threat against Sokolov.
With reporting by AP