Putin Demands Security Forces Solve Journalist Murder

Russian President Vladimir Putin is demanding law enforcement and security agencies in Russia's North Caucasus step up efforts to bring to justice everyone involved in the killing of a television journalist.

Anchorman Kazbek Gekkiev, 28, was shot and killed as he left work on the night of December 5 in Nalchik, the capital of the North Caucasus republic of Kabardino-Balkariya.

Speaking in the southern Russian resort of Sochi, Putin condemned the killing and called into question the efficiency of the security agencies' work.

"Unfortunately, in our country we have once again been confronted with a very harsh and obnoxious crime -- the murder of a human being," he said. "Perhaps the most important human right, the right to life, has been violated. And it looks like one more right, the right to information, has also been violated as a journalist has been killed. A young person, he was very promising and greatly loved by television audiences. All of this makes us ponder again how efficient our work of protecting essential human rights is."

Local authorities blame Islamist militants for the murder.

Russian ombudsman Vladimir Lukin, who met with Putin in Sochi, urged authorities to take measures to ensure the security of journalists.

"I would very much like to see...another serious impulse coming from you to all law-enforcement authorities, local and others, so that they consider once again all possible means of safety for journalists," Lukin said, "especially the ones who cover controversial issues and bring matters to light."

Earlier, Russian Investigative Committee spokesman Vladimir Markin told journalists in Moscow on December 6 that investigators believe they know why Gekkiev was killed.

"At this moment, we can say that the most probable motive was Gekkiev’s professional activity," he said. "This audacious crime can be viewed as a warning to other journalists who speak about the fight against underground militants in [Kabardino-Balkaria]."

According to Markin, it appears that Gekkiev's killers thoroughly planned the attack.

"Before killing Gekkiev, the suspects made sure he was indeed a journalist, the host of a news program, which confirms the main suspected motive," he said. "[The suspects] shot at Gekkiev three times. Nine-millimeter cartridge cases were found at the scene of the crime."

Gekkiev's colleagues say that “extremists” had earlier threatened to kill two other journalists working for the television channel. The station's management took the threatened employees off the air for their own safety.