The chief editor of the Novaya Gazeta newspaper Dmitry Muratov accused head of the Russian Investigation Committee Alexander Bastrykin of an unprecedented pressure on journalists on Wednesday. Bastrykin took his deputy Sergei Sokolov to the forest in the Moscow Region and “rudely threatened to the life” of the journalist, Muratov said. The Novaya Gazeta newspaper demands security for its employees. The Russian Public Chamber was interested in the incident. President Vladimir Putin is also aware of the scandal.
Dmitry Muratov laid down the accusations against Alexander Bastrykin in an open letter, which was published in the Novaya Gazeta newspaper on Wednesday, the Kommersant daily reported. The conflict was caused by an article of deputy chief editor of the newspaper Sergei Sokolov about the investigation into the criminal case over the massacre in the settlement Kushchevskaya. In this criminal case a lenient verdict to a defendant Sergei Tsepovyaz was linked with close relations with the law enforcement agencies. “The bandits with policemen and prosecutors stepped on all or this was nothing but an operation for cover-up,” the article runs. Bastrykin, who also received an unpleasant characteristics from the author, invited Sergei Sokolov for a meeting of the committee in Nalchik on the day the article was published. Dmitry Muratov noted that Bastrykin demanded apologies from the journalist, and Sokolov apologised for “an emotional overreaction.” The head of the Investigation Committee stated at the meeting that when writing an article Sergei Sokolov was not seeking to speak with him, his deputies and did accept the apologies.
The conflict, which laid a basis for the letter, had taken place already in Moscow. The Novaya Gazeta affirmed that Alexander Bastrykin took the journalist away to “the forest in the Moscow Region” right from the airport and “rudely threatened to the life” of Sokolov and even “making a successful joke” he promised to investigate a probable criminal case against him. After that Sergei Sokolov had to leave the country and Dmitry Muratov, who failed to agree on a personal meeting with Bastrykin, published a letter with the demands of guarantees of security not only for him, but also for the staff of the newspaper.
The Russian Investigation Committee refused strongly to comment on the open letter. The Kommersant daily noted that some journalists confused Sergei Tsepovyaz with a man with the same surname Vyacheslav Tsepovyaz, who is accused of several murders in Kushchevskaya. The Novaya Gazeta article tells about Sergei Tsepovyaz, but the decoded telephone conversations of Vyacheslav Tsepovyaz are cited.
The chiefs of leading media stood up in defence of Sergei Sokolov. Russian presidential press secretary Dmitry Peskov stated that the president was informed about the situation, the RBC daily reported. State Duma deputy Gennady Gudkov offered in an interview with the newspaper that deputy Alexander Khinshtein was attempting to discuss the situation at a meeting of the Committee for Security and Counteraction to Corruption, in which both of them are included. Gudkov noted that the leadership of the committee will try to block the debates. On Wednesday, tens of journalists went in sole pickets against Alexander Bastrykin at the Investigation Committee building. The officers of the Investigation Committee put up metallic fences and guards around the alley at the Investigation Committee building and several people were detained.
Despite long-standing tensions with the Investigation Committee the Prosecutor General’s Office refrained from any comments, the newspaper noted. But an unofficial source in this agency explained, “We cannot launch any inquiry without an address over the incident. But even if the statement is filed, this will hardly result in any consequences. It can be said already today that this scandal will end with nothing. Not having the recorded conversation, it is useless to hope that people will believe to the words of the journalist more than the words of the chairman of the Investigation Committee.”