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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Tolyatti Editor Stabbed to Death

tolyatti reviewEditor Alexei Sidorov, right, and Valery Ivanov posing in Tolyatti in an undated photo.
A year and a half after the editor of the Tolyatti Review newspaper was gunned down, his friend and successor was stabbed to death outside his apartment building.

Both killings were seen by their colleagues and investigators as contract hits aimed at silencing the newspaper, known for its hard-hitting investigative reports of organized crime and official corruption in Tolyatti, the hometown of AvtoVAZ, the country's largest automaker.

The Press Ministry expressed its indignation at the attacks on journalists who were "carrying out their professional duty."

Alexei Sidorov, 31, was stabbed several times with a rough, handmade knife as he approached the entrance to his apartment building on Kommunisticheskaya Ulitsa at about 9:50 p.m. Thursday.

Sidorov's colleagues said he managed to get to the building's door and call his wife on the intercom.

"She ran out but the ambulance arrived too late. He was already dead," deputy editor Rimma Mikhareva said by telephone from Tolyatti.

The killer fled. Russian newspapers, citing witnesses, said there were two accomplices.

Yevgeny Novozhilov, deputy prosecutor of the Samara region, where Tolyatti is located, said he had no doubt that it was a contract hit, almost certainly related to the journalist's work.

"He wrote about practically all of the leaders of our crime gangs. I think the order [to kill him] came from there," Novozhilov said in televised remarks.

Sidorov took over the paper after its previous editor, Valery Ivanov, was shot to death in the parking lot near his home on April 29, 2002. The killing has not been solved.

The murder of a second editor has shocked the Tolyatti Review staff, most of whom had worked with Sidorov and Ivanov since the paper was founded seven years ago.

"No one has any doubts about what it is," Mikhareva said.

She would not speculate on which of the paper's investigative reports might have cost Sidorov his life and pointed more generally to its refusal to back down after Ivanov was killed. "We believed that Valery's death was meant to silence the paper, but it remained as implacable as it was at the beginning when Alexei was running it," Mikhareva said.

Shortly after Ivanov's death, Sidorov said in a television interview, rebroadcast Friday by Channel One, that he was determined to investigate the killing of his boss, whom he had helped found the newspaper.

Izvestia reported Saturday that Sidorov had been conducting his own investigation into Ivanov's murder.

Interior Minister Boris Gryzlov promised on Friday that experienced investigators would be assigned to the Sidorov murder case. "We know that two years ago another employee of this publication was killed. So for us it is a matter of honor to solve it," Gryzlov said in televised remarks.

Prosecutor General's Office officials made similar statements following the murder of Ivanov.

"We know the names of the killers but we cannot make them public yet," Deputy Prosecutor General Vladimir Kolesnikov said in October 2002.

The reaction of the Press Ministry to Sidorov's murder came instantly. "The leadership of the ministry is indignant at the murder and has sent an appeal to the Prosecutor General's Office with a request to take the investigation under special control," Mikhail Seslavinsky, a deputy press minister, told Interfax.

"We believe that all the investigations that the paper conducted caused hatred on behalf of people connected with criminal business," Seslavinsky said.

"The journalists just carried out their duty. It is impossible that there is a situation in the country where they are killed for carrying out their professional duty."

More than 200 journalists have been killed in Russia since the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991, Interfax reported, citing Igor Yakovenko, head of the Russian Union of Journalists.