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The death toll of Russian journalists remains gloomy

By Vladimer Napetvaridze
Friday, November 3
On 23 October, in her office Deputy Editor of Ekho Moskvy Tatyana Felgenhauer was stabbed by a 48-year-old attacker. Fortunately, Felgenhauer survived and will continue her activities remotely until finally rehabilitated.

The man, who had broken into the editorial office, was held by colleagues and later arrested. According to the fact that Felgenhauer is one of the most famous opposition journalists in Russia, this incident has caused a huge response inside and outside the country. For more than 10 years, Felgenhauer has been working at the Radio Station Ekho Moskvy. She became famous in 2005 when as a correspondent she took part in the TV program on the accident in Moscow’s energy system. Felgenhauer gained extensive popularity after becoming the correspondent and presenter of Ekho Moskvy Radio Station, where she invited guests and discussed the Kremlin politics from a critical point of view. Therefore, it is not surprising, that many agencies underlined the possible political motives of this crime.

Western media outlets such as The Telegraph, The Guardian and NBC News have covered the issue underlining the fact that Felgenhauer is a critic of the Kremlin and Ekho Moskvy is among few radio stations in Russia which offers “a platform to Kremlin critics.” The Guardian also voiced the fact that Russian journalists feel mostly defenseless.

Authorities of the Russian government denied the fact that the attack could be politically motivated. The attacker who was identified as a 48-year-old Boris Grits, told investigators that he had a "telepathic contact" with Felgenhauer since 2012 and had a personal grudge against her. Investigators said that Grits will undergo a psychiatric expertise.

Friends and colleagues of the journalist deny the possibility that the attacker and Felgenhauer had any kind of connection earlier.

"A personal conflict between Tanya and the attacker is a complete nonsense. Tanya doesn't know him," her colleague from Ekho Moskvy Tonia Samsonova tweeted.

The attack on Ekho Moskvy’s journalist is not an exception in Russia. There have been dozens of incidents in recent 15 years, when attacks on journalists ended with death. According to an organization The Committee to Protect Journalists, there have been 58 “Motive Confirmed” and 24 “Motive Unconfirmed” homicides of journalists in Russia from 1993 till today.

This year on May 24, in the city of Minusinsk, Krasnoyarsk Territory, Editor- in-Chief of the local newspaper Ton-M, Dmitry Popkov, was shot dead in the courtyard of his private house. Popkov was actively engaged in anti-corruption journalistic investigations. "I hope that investigation will be objective, but nothing can be guaranteed in Minusinsk," commented Editor of the newspaper Ton-M, Alexander Tomskikh, about the murder of his fellow colleague.

On April 19 2017, a 73-year-old journalist of the newspaper New Petersburg, Nikolai Andruschenko, died in a hospital after an attack in St. Petersburg. The circumstances of the attack remain unknown. Just like Popkov, Andruschenko was also connected to several anti-corruption investigations.

The year of 2016 has not been calm for Russian journalists either. On August 25, 2016 Editor of the regional newspaper Zvezda, Fedor Kulagin, disappeared and was found dead a week later. The case is still under investigation. “Personally, I believe this was a planned murder,” a wife of late Editor commented adding that she did not have any information about possible motives.

The year of 2015 was marked with two notorious murders of journalists: Lyudmila Matsenko, a correspondent of the newspaper “Chernogorsk” who was attacked in the street and a Ukrainian journalist, Evgeny Morin, who was found dead in Moscow.

Morin was a friend and a co-worker of a controversial Ukrainian journalist and writer Oles Buzina, who was murdered in Ukraine a few days earlier. Morin was visiting Moscow to attend the funeral of Buzina. The heart attack was named as an official reason for Morin’s death, however, his colleagues and friends doubted it. “I do not believe it! I’ve known him for many years and have not noticed any health problems! It looks like a murder - his opinion was too uncomfortable and, most importantly, perhaps, he knew a lot about the murder of Buzina,” said his colleague Pavel M. to News Agency of Kharkov.

The index of the freedom of press in Russia is one of the lowest due to the number of homicides of journalists and the consistent pressure on media. According to Freedom House, Russia takes 83rd place out of 100. And, Reporters Without Borders rank Russia as 148 out of 180 countries with a score of 49.45.