- The Washington Times - Monday, March 5, 2007

LONDON DAILY TELEGRAPH

A journalist who had criticized Russian President Vladimir Putin and frequently irritated Russia’s powerful intelligence services has died after falling from a fifth-floor window of an apartment building.

Friends and colleagues demanded an investigation yesterday into the death of Ivan Safronov, the military-affairs columnist at the Kommersant newspaper.

Russian investigators said they believed that Mr. Safronov, 51, had committed suicide — an interpretation that was challenged by colleagues.

Editors at Kommersant, widely regarded as the country’s most authoritative newspaper, said the manner in which Mr. Safronov died pointed to foul play.

The reporter had been to a clinic, where he was being treated for an ulcer, on Friday afternoon and then stopped on the way back to buy a bag of oranges, according to witnesses.

Although he lived on the third floor, the former army colonel fell from the fifth and landed on the portico above the main entrance.

“I am sure it was murder,” said Ilya Bulavinov, Kommersant’s deputy chief editor. “People don’t commit suicide in this manner.”

Two female students heard Mr. Safronov’s body land and reported that he was still alive. They rang emergency services and were told to call back in 30 minutes if the journalist were still moving. By that time, he was dead.

Russian security services have been implicated in the deaths of a number of Mr. Putin’s critics, including journalist Anna Politkovskaya, who was fatally shot in Moscow in October, and the poisoning death of former KGB agent Alexander Litvenenko in London the following month.


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