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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Agency Slams Probe On Reporter's Death

The German news agency RUFA said Thursday it was not satisfied with the investigation so far into the death of its journalist Natalya Alyakina, shot by Interior Ministry troops near Budyonnovsk on June 17.

A young soldier was arrested and charged with "reckless control of a weapon" by the local military prosecutor in Pyatigorsk and faces up to 10 years' imprisonment if found guilty.

But Jens Siegert from RUFA said Thursday he did not accept that the young soldier was the only guilty party, saying the Interior Ministry was conducting a system that was "murdering a huge number of people."

Siegert cited recent events in Chechnya and the storming of Budyonnovsk's hospital, as well as another incident involving a journalist that took place the following day in Budyonnovsk, when a soldier fired the gun of his armored personnel carrier into a nearby wall. The blast killed one of his fellow soldiers, and wounded several others nearby, including a Russian journalist who was with them.

Siegert also said he did not think the charge appropriate. "We do not think that it was incorrect handling of a weapon: There are some doubts about that," he said. "This was a very heavy machine-gun, which can break through a tank. The bullet went through Natalya and the driver and out of the car. There was no chance for her to survive."

Alyakina, 40, was traveling with her husband, journalist Gisbert Mrozek, and photojournalist Oleg Nikishin to Budyonnovsk to cover the hostage crisis. As their car was cleared through a checkpoint and was pulling away, an armored personnel carrier opened fire hitting the car twice.

The commander of the checkpoint afterwards told Mrozek that the shots had gone off by mistake. One foreign journalist, who came through the same checkpoint some 20 minutes before Alyakina, said the soldiers had appeared totally drunk.

In an open letter to the Russian government signed by some 150 journalists, RUFA has demanded a full and thorough investigation into all cases where innocent people like Alyakina have died at the hands of the Interior Ministry.

Deputy Interior Minister Mikhail Yegorov, who together with Interior Minister Viktor Yerin was in charge of the operation in Budyonnovsk, admitted that it was a mistake to use young soldiers to seal off the area.