September 30, 2010 / 7:49 AM / in 9 years

Russia reopens probes into journalist killings

* Investigations reopened after appeal by media rights group

* Russia ranked as 8th most dangerous place for journalists

By Conor Humphries

MOSCOW, Sept 30 (Reuters) - Russia has reopened criminal probes into the deaths of five journalists following an appeal by a media rights group that ranks Russia as one of the most dangerous countries for journalists, officials said on Thursday.

The Prosecutor General’s Office said it had decided to reopen criminal investigations into five journalist deaths between 2001 and 2005 after receiving new information from the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).

Russia is ranked eighth on the CPJ’s list of countries where journalists are killed regularly and governments fail to solve the crimes, with 19 journalists murdered in the country since 2000.

President Dmitry Medvedev has pledged to get to the bottom of unsolved press murders, including the 2006 killing of Kremlin critic Anna Politkovskaya, but rights groups say little progress has been made in finding the people who ordered the crimes.

The Investigative Committee of the Prosecutor General’s Office said in a statement it had reopened criminal probes into five provincial killings, including the 2003 stabbing of Alexei Sidorov who reported on corruption for an independent newspaper in the city of Togliatti and the death of his colleague Valery Ivanov a year earlier.

Investigations will also be reopened into the 2001 shooting of Eduard Markevich near the town of Asbest, the death of Natalia Skryl in Taganrog in 2002 and the death of Vagif Kochetkov in Tula in 2005.

Medvedev, who has been more vocal in his condemnation of journalist killings than predecessor Vladimir Putin, last week said he would boost the powers of the Investigative Committee, separating it from the Prosecutor General’s Office and making it directly answerable to the Kremlin.

“The Investigation Committee clearly understands the role of media as an important element in building a democratic society,” the Investigative Committee statement said.

Writing by Conor Humphries; Editing by Peter Graff; +7495-7751242

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