New investigation into murder of “Novaya Gazeta” journalist

The start of criminal proceedings against the alleged mastermind of the murder of Novaya Gazeta’s journalist Igor Domnikov on April 22, 2009 brings hope that a precedent of putting to trial not only executors but the masterminds of crimes against journalists will be at last created in the Russian Federation. If the case goes all the way to court, it will mark a very meaningful step towards ending impunity for the perpetrators of crimes of the kind.

9 years ago a man attacked special correspondent of Novaya Gazeta Igor Domnikov on the staircase of his apartment block, hit him several times on the head with a hammer and ran away, dropping the hammer at the scene of the crime.

The journalist was taken to hospital with severe skull traumas, and operated on at the Burdenko Neurosurgery Institute, but died 65 days later. His killer was only identified five years later, put on trial and sentenced for the murder and other criminal offenses to 25 years in jail on August 28, 2007.

The supposed masterminds of the killing – former vice-governor of the Lipetsk Region Sergey Dorovsky and businessman Pavel Sopot, being in contacts both with the Lipetsk regional administration and organized criminal  groups managed to get away with the murder at the time, only appearing in court as witnesses. "Novaya Gazeta" kept insisting in vain that the law enforcers investigate its employee’s murder to the end.

Several investigations ended in no criminal proceedings being launched against the two men because no corpus delicti was found in their actions – and this despite information that the vice-governor, annoyed by Domnikov’s publications, asked Sopot, whose trade was beating payments out of debtors, to find people who might "have it out" with the inconvenient journalist. In the end, Sopot hired Eduard Tagiryanov (left), a crime ring leader, involved in killings of 23 people, to do the job.

It may as well be noted here that journalists’ killings have never been fully disclosed in Russia; even if executors have sometimes been tracked down, tried and convicted, the organizers and ordering parties have stayed in the shadows. The impression is that no one has actually sought to find them.

In 2008 the lawyer Stanislav Markelov (left) appeared in court for Novaya Gazeta and Domnikov’s widow. He repeatedly appealed to Investigating Committee trying to induce it to proceed with the investigation on Domnikov’s case. Only after killing of Markelov, the first serious investigating verification on Domnikov’s case has been sanctioned.

On April17, it was announced that corpus delicti was found in Sopot’s actions and criminal proceedings was initiated.

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