Investigators Reopen Probe of Shchekochikhin's Death

YablokoYury Shchekochikhin attending a Yabloko conference on Feb. 14, 2002.
The Investigative Committee has formally opened a criminal investigation into the mysterious 2003 death of Yury Shchekochikhin, a liberal State Duma deputy and Novaya Gazeta journalist, Interfax reported Friday.

The case was opened "in the interests of a comprehensive, complete and objective investigation of all aspects of the death of Yury Shchekochikhin," said Vladimir Markin, the committee's spokesman, Interfax reported.

Markin said the order came from Investigative Committee head Alexander Bastrykin personally and that "foreign experts" would assist investigators.

Bastrykin promised last month that investigators would re-examine the available evidence and decide whether to open a new murder investigation.

The criminal investigation means that Shchekochikhin's body may be exhumed for a new round of tests that were not conducted immediately after his death, Kommersant reported Saturday.

Shchekochikhin, who wrote investigative pieces about high-level corruption and belonged to the Yabloko party, died two weeks after falling ill in June 2003. Doctors said he suffered a severe allergic reaction to an unknown substance.

His supporters have said his symptoms were similar to those suffered by Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko, pointing to possible exposure to a toxic agent. His supporters also have said no autopsy was performed and that access to medical records was not granted. After being denied access to medical reports, the family sent a skin sample to Britain, where tests determined Shchekochikhin might have been poisoned.