MOSCOW, December 6 (RIA Novosti) – A journalist killed in Nalchik, capital of the Russian republic of Kabardino-Balkaria on Wednesday night, was probably targeted because of his “professional activity,” investigators said on Thursday.
“This audacious crime can be seen as a threat to other journalists who cover operations against the insurgents acting on the republic’s territory,” the Investigative Committee said.
Kazbek Gekkiyev, TV host of a local daily news program for state-owned VGTRK broadcasting company, was leaving work late on Wednesday when he was approached by two unknown men, the Investigative Committee said.
According to a witness, one of the men asked him whether he was Kazbek Gekkiyev, and when he replied “yes,” one of them opened fire.
Journalists reporting on the battle between the federal authorities and Islamist militants in the volatile North Caucasus have previously been targeted as a result of their coverage.
Earlier this year, a group of unknown extremists posted a video online threatening some of Gekkiyev’s colleagues, although he was not named. When two employees were taken off the air for their own safety, Gekkiyev replaced one of them as a presenter.
Gekkiyev’s colleagues said he had not covered any particularly controversial stories that could have led to the murder, but journalists from state media had received general threats.
“The rebels were threatening local reporters at state-owned outlets and bloggers,” a reporter based in the North Caucasus, Zaur Farniyev, told Kommersant FM radio station on Thursday.
The republic’s head, Arsen Kanokov, sent his condolences to Gekkiyev’s relatives. The TV channel canceled all entertainment shows scheduled for Thursday, as a mark of respect.
In a separate attack in the region, the Deputy Transport Minister of Russia’s Republic of Kabardino-Balkaria, Vladislav Dyadchenko, was injured in a car bomb attack on Thursday morning, a local law enforcement agency said.
A home-made explosive device detonated as the deputy minister drove away from number 54 Tarchokovo Street. He survived the attack and was rushed to hospital. It was not immediately clear who was responsible for the attack.
Law enforcement agencies have not linked the incidents.