Russian Investigator Threatened Reporter, Novaya Gazeta Says

Russia’s chief investigator threatened the life of the deputy editor of Novaya Gazeta, according to an open letter published today in the newspaper.

Alexander Bastrykin, head of the Russian Investigative Committee, made the threat in person after ordering Sergei Sokolov to be taken to a wood outside Moscow on June 4, according to the letter, which was addressed to him. The committee’s press service declined to comment.

Novaya Gazeta’s editor, Dmitry Muratov, said Bastrykin was responding to an article in the newspaper that criticized him over the trial of suspects for a massacre of 12 people in the southern Krasnodar region in 2010. Sokolov has left Russia for his own safety, Muratov told the British Broadcasting Corp.’s Russian-language service.

Russia is the world’s ninth most-dangerous country for journalists, according to the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists, a media freedom watchdog. Seventy-seven journalists have been killed in Russia since 2002, CPJ says.

President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said the Russian leader was aware of the complaint “but it’s too early to comment on situation.”

During the investigation of the November, 2010 mass murders committed in Kushchevskaya, about 1,150 kilometers (719 miles) south of Moscow, the government examined allegations that local officials aided a group of criminals that terrorized the region since the late 1990s.

Five reporters for Novaya Gazeta have been killed since Putin came to power in 2000, including Anna Politkovskaya, who was shot in the head in her Moscow apartment building on Putin’s birthday in 2006. Politkovskaya’s work alleged corruption under the Russian leader and abuses by security forces in the mainly Muslim region of Chechnya.

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