PEN International welcomes a pledge by Russian investigators to re-open investigations into the cases of five murdered journalists. Valery Ivanov, Natalia Skryl, Aleksei Sidorov, Yuri Shchekochikhin, and Vagif Kochetkov are all suspected to have been killed in connection with their journalistic activities. They are all PEN cases from the last nine years. PEN urges the Federal Investigative Committee to investigate these cases thoroughly, and calls for an end to the climate of impunity that exists in Russia, where attacks on journalists frequently go uninvestigated.

Background Information

Russian journalists work in an increasingly hostile environment and live under constant threat of legal harassment and violence. In 2010, approximately 40 were attacked because of their work. According to human rights groups, there have been 19 unsolved murders of journalists since 2000. Investigations are often superficial and frequently stagnate. Progress in high-profile murder cases, such as those of Anna Politkovskaya (murdered in 2006) and Natalia Estemirova (murdered in 2009), has been very slow.

The five murdered journalists whose cases have been re-opened are listed below:

Valery Ivanov
, 32, editor of the Tolyatinskoye Oibozreniye, was shot dead in the southern city of Togliatti on April 29, 2002. His former colleagues believe that the crime is connected to Chechen criminal gangs, about whose activities he had been reporting.

Aleksei Sidorov, editor-in-chief of the Tolyatinskoye Oibozreniye and successor of Valery Ivanov, died following a knife attack in Togliatti on October 10, 2003. According to the Public Prosecutor, his murder appeared to be a contract killing. His newspaper was critical of local criminal gangs.

Natalia Skryl, 29, journalist for Nasha Vremia, was murdered on March 8, 2002, near her home in Taganrog. Skryl was a business journalist who covered corruption and it is thought that her reporting of a power struggle at a local metallurgy plant might be linked with her death.
Yuri Shchekochikhin, journalist, died on July 2, 2003. He had been in a coma for five days following what official reports described as an "acute allergic reaction." However, friends suspect that he was poisoned. Shchekochikhin had received death threats following allegations he made of malpractice within the state judiciary.
Vagif Kochetkov, 31, journalist for the Moscow daily Trud as well as local newspaper Tulskii Molodoi Kommunar, died on January 8, 2006, following injuries he received during an attack on December 27, 2005. Kochetkov’s colleagues said that he had received numerous death threats by telephone for his reporting, specifically relating to his criticism of a pharmaceutical company and organized crime.

Write A Letter

  • Calling for a full and thorough investigation into the murders of Valery Ivanov, Natalia Skryl, Aleksei Sidorov, Yuri Shchekochikhin, and Vagif Kochetkov;
  • Calling on the Russian authorities to unequivocally condemn all attacks on the Russian independent press.

Send Your Letter To

Mr. Dmitry Medvedev
President of the Russian Federation
Fax: +7 095 206 5173
Email: [email protected]

Mr. Chaika Yuri Yakovlevich
Prosecutor General of the Russian Federation
Ishaya Dmitrovka 1 a GSP e
Moscow 12599 3
Fax: +7 095 292 88 48

Please copy appeals to the diplomatic representative for Russia in your country if possible.