|Ivan Safronov, a military correspondent for Russia's top business daily Kommersant, seen in Moscow in this Aug. 2, 2005 file photo. Ivan Safronov, the military affairs writer for Kommersant, has died after falling out of a window, and some media alleged Monday, March 5, 2007 that he might have been killed for his critical reporting. (AP Photo/Valery Melnikov, Kommersant)|
Russian reporter dies in window fall
MOSCOW --A military correspondent for Russia's top business daily died after falling from a fifth-story window, and some media speculated Monday that he might have been killed for his critical reporting.
Ivan Safronov, the military affairs writer for Kommersant, died Friday in the fall from a window in the stairwell of his apartment building in Moscow, according to officials. His body was found by neighbors shortly afterward.
Safronov, who had served as a colonel in the Russian Space Forces before joining Kommersant in 1997, frequently angered authorities with his critical reporting and was repeatedly questioned by the Federal Security Service, the main KGB successor agency, which suspected him of divulging state secrets. No charges were ever filed because Safronov was able to prove his reports were based on open sources, Kommersant said.
With prosecutors investigating the death, Kommersant and some other media suggested foul play.
"The suicide theory has become dominant in the investigation, but all those who knew Ivan Safronov categorically reject it," Kommersant wrote in an article Monday.
According to the newspaper, the 51-year-old's hat was found on the landing between the fourth and fifth floors, along with a spilled bag of oranges. His apartment was on the third floor.
The paper cited neighbors and other residents of the building as hearing nothing unusual at the time of the incident, around 4 p.m. Friday.
Safronov's colleagues and relatives have described him as a strong, cheerful person who would be extremely unlikely to kill himself.
In December, Safronov angered the authorities when he was the first to report the third consecutive launch failure of the new Bulava intercontinental ballistic missile, which President Vladimir Putin had hailed as a basis of the nation's nuclear might for years to come. Authorities never acknowledged the launch failure.
"For some reason, it is those journalists who are disliked by the authorities who die in this country," the daily Moskovsky Komsomolets said Monday. "Ivan Safronov was one of those. He knew a lot about the real situation in the army and the defense industries and he reported it."
The Moscow prosecutor's office did not respond to repeated calls for comment about the investigation into his death, and neighborhood prosecutors could not immediately be reached.
In a report that may have been aimed to quash speculation of foul play, the ITAR-Tass news agency quoted an unidentified law enforcement source as saying investigators had "not even any minimal information" pointing to the possibility of murder.
Russia is among the most dangerous countries for journalists and is plagued by attacks on reporters who seek to expose official corruption and other abuses. The problem was highlighted by the October killing of Anna Politkovskaya, an investigative reporter and a harsh critic of human rights abuses in Chechnya.
The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists said in January that 44 Russian journalists have been killed since 1992, making Russia the third-deadliest country for journalists after Iraq and Algeria during that time. Thirteen journalists have been killed in contract-style murders since Putin took office in 2000, the group said.