The head of Russia’s Investigative Committee, Alexander Bastrykin, has denied accusations by the editor-in-chief of the Russian opposition newspaper Novaya Gazeta about “questioning” journalist Sergei Sokolov in a forest, the daily Izvestiya reported on its website on Thursday.
Dmitry Muratov, the editor-in-chief of Novaya Gazeta, in an open letter said that Alexander Bastrykin’s bodyguards forced Sokolov earlier this month to go with them to a forest outside Moscow where Bastrykin threatened the journalist.
“First, I don’t even remember the last time I was in the forest. My work is so intense that I have no time for trips to nature. Second, the conflict with Novaya Gazeta started over the boorish and disgusting article on investigations of a bloodbath in 2010 in the village of Kushchyovskoye in the Krasnodar region,” Bastrykin said in his interview to the daily, referring to an article that Sokolov had written at the time.
Bastrykin admitted that his reaction to the article was “emotional.”
“I just felt hurt, not so much for me as for [other] investigators who often risk their lives doing their job … I agree, the luxury of expressing my emotion. I had to endure, rather than trying explain to an unscrupulous journalist what is good and what is bad. There is nothing to apologize for,” Bastrykin said.
“Again, nobody took anyone to a forest. It’s just nonsense from a hothead. There was a very emotional conversation,” Bastrykin added.
Bastrykin and Sokolov had a public falling-out over a bloodbath in 2010 in the village of Kushchyovskoye in the Krasnodar region, where a local gang murdered 12 people, including four children.
One member of the gang, Sergei Tsepovyaz, a former municipal deputy from the ruling United Russia party, got away with a fine of 150,000 rubles ($4,500) last month after being found guilty of covering up the murders. The sentence prompted Sokolov to dub the Investigative Committee and other state officials “the foundation of power” of such gangs.
The investigation concluded that Tsepovyaz was not a gang member and did not kill anyone.
Sokolov later apologized to Bastrykin, who refused to accept the apology and said the journalist’s words would have merited a duel in tsarist times.