Second editor killed in 10 days as fear grips Moscow

Posted in Russia | 19-Jul-04 | Author: Andrew Osborn| Source: The Independent

Mr Klebnikov was an outspoken critic of Russia's oligarchs

Russia's jittery foreign press corps was plunged into mourning yesterday for the second time in as many weeks after another foreign journalist was murdered in Moscow.

The killing of Paila Peloyan, the Armenian editor of the Russian-language monthly, Armenian Lane, comes barely a week after Paul Klebnikov, the US editor of the Russian version of Forbes magazine, was gunned down in cold blood. Nobody has been arrested for his murder.

Mr Peloyan's body was found dumped by the side of the city's outer ring road or MKAD far from the city centre on Saturday morning.

He had multiple stab wounds in the chest and had been savagely beaten; his skull was cracked and his face covered in blood and bruises.

Information about his last movements is sketchy, though he is known to have died between two and three o'clock on Saturday morning and his body lay undiscovered for at least four hours.

Investigators say they have crawled over the crime scene in order to try to find out what happened and prosecutors have opened a criminal case into the killing.

They are not ruling out the possibility that Mr Peloyan was murdered because of his professional activity.

In contrast to the late Mr Klebnikov, however, Mr Peloyan's work appears relatively uncontroversial. While the dead American journalist made waves by publicising the names of Russia's wealthiest people and delving into their often insalubrious financial affairs, Mr Peloyan's magazine was an arts publication.

Moscow's Armenian diaspora, Armenian Lanecarried features about literature, the arts and history and included prose and poetry from Armenian writers. Nobody was answering the phones at the magazine's Moscow office yesterday.

That Mr Peloyan's murder comes so soon after that of Mr Klebnikov is likely to unsettle foreign and Russian journalists alike. Mr Klebnikov was killed in a drive-by shooting by at least two gunmen and died in a hail of bullets just yards from his office. His murder had all the hallmarks of a contract killing.

An online news site, the Russia Journal, spoke yesterday of "an undeclared war against media representatives" and claimed that Russian and foreign journalists had become an endangered species in Moscow.

It said: "These two senseless killings have once again put the issue of journalists' safety in Russia back on the agenda and raised well-founded concerns among representatives of the fourth estate.

"This is not because killing journalists is a rarity in Moscow or in Russia at large but two murders of journalists in less than 10 days in a city that is not at war is something unusual, even by Russian standards." The Russian media itself made far less of Mr Peloyan's murder, possibly because as an Armenian hailing from a part of the former Soviet Union once ruled by the Russians, he would not be considered a bona fide foreigner like Mr Klebnikov.

It is estimated that two million Armenians live in Russia and the two countries have a close relationship going back hundreds of years. Officials at the Armenian embassy in Moscow said that they were profoundly shocked by Mr Peloyan's murder. "Naturally we learnt of this information with great regret," Armen Gevondyan, the embassy press secretary, told Interfax news agency.

"We are taking all the measures we can together with Russia's law enforcement authorities to ascertain the circumstances of Mr Peloyan's death." Mr Peloyan is the 16th journalist to be murdered in Russia since 2000 when Vladimir Putin assumed the presidency. The US-based Committee to Protect Journalists says the country is one of the deadliest places to be a reporter. It addressed an open letter to Mr Putin after Mr Klebnikov's killing, complaining about "the climate of lawlessness and impunity".

"Cases [of journalists being killed] have not been properly investigated or prosecuted, a testament to the ongoing lawlessness in Russia and your failure to reform the country's weak and politicised criminal justice system," it said.

JOURNALISTS MURDERED IN RUSSIA

Paul Klebnikov, editor of 'Forbes' magazine (Russian edition)

Age: 41

Died: 9 July 2004

Gunned down from passing car while leaving office in Moscow. Had exposed workings of the country's shadowy billionaires

Aleksei Sidorov, editor-in-chief of 'Tolyatinskoye Obozreniye'

Age: 31

Died: 9 October 2003

Stabbed several times in the chest by unidentified assailant outside home. Newspaper known for investigative reporting on organised crime, government corruption and shady corporate deals

Valery Ivanov, editor-in-chief of 'Tolyatinskoye Obozreniye'

Age: 32

Died: 29 April 2002

Shot eight times in head at point-blank range by assassin using a pistol with a silencer. Murdered in Togliatti after paper exposed controversial business deals linked to organised crime and government corruption

Natalya Skryl, business reporter, 'Nashe Vremya'

Age: 29

Died: 9 March 2002

The reporter was repeatedly struck on the head while returning home in Rostov-on-Don late at night. She was investigating a struggle for the control of Tagmet, a local metallurgical plant. Just before her death, Ms Skryl told colleagues that she had obtained sensitive information about the story and was planning to publish it

Eduard Markevich, editor and publisher of 'Novy Reft'

Age: 29

Died: 18 September 2001

Shot in the back. The paper, in the Sverdlovsk region, often criticised local officials. Mr Markevich received threatening calls before the fatal attack

Igor Domnikov, reporter and special projects editor of 'Novaya Gazeta'

Age: 42

Died: 16 July 2000

Died in Moscow two months after being attacked by an unidentified assailant and left lying in pool of blood in the entryway of his apartment building. His colleagues and police were initially certain the attack was related to his professional activity or that of the newspaper. It was also believed for a while that the assailant mistook Mr Domnikov for a Novaya Gazeta investigative reporter, Oleg Sultanov, who lived in the same building. Mr Sultanov claimed to have received threats from the Federal Security Service for reporting on corruption in the Russian oil industry

Natalya Skryl, business reporter, 'Nashe Vremya'

Age: 29

Died: 9 March 2002

The reporter was repeatedly struck on the head while returning home in Rostov-on-Don late at night. She was investigating a struggle for the control of Tagmet, a local metallurgical plant. Just before her death, Ms Skryl told colleagues that she had obtained sensitive information about the story and was planning to publish it

Eduard Markevich, editor and publisher of 'Novy Reft'

Age: 29

Died: 18 September 2001

Shot in the back. The paper, in the Sverdlovsk region, often criticised local officials. Mr Markevich received threatening calls before the fatal attack

Igor Domnikov, reporter and special projects editor of 'Novaya Gazeta'

Age: 42

Died: 16 July 2000

Died in Moscow two months after being attacked by an unidentified assailant and left lying in pool of blood in the entryway of his apartment building. His colleagues and police were initially certain the attack was related to his professional activity or that of the newspaper. It was also believed for a while that the assailant mistook Mr Domnikov for a Novaya Gazeta investigative reporter, Oleg Sultanov, who lived in the same building. Mr Sultanov claimed to have received threats from the Federal Security Service for reporting on corruption in the Russian oil industry

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