Russian newspaper editor Dmitry Muratov said on Wednesday that prominent reporter Sergei Sokolov was threatened by the country's top investigator, Alexander Bastrykin.
Muratov, editor-in-chief of Novaya Gazeta, told Reuters that deputy editor Sokolov received death threats from Bastrykin, chairman of Russia's Investigative Committee.
"I ordered him to leave the country," Muratov said of Sokolov.
According to the Guardian, Bastrykin's aides drove Sokolov to a forest outside Moscow after a press trip and told security guards to leave him alone with the investigator. Bastrykin, who is said to be in an "extremely emotional condition," told Sokolov what he thought about Novaya Gazeta's journalism and made threats against his life, even suggesting he would oversee the reporter's assassination himself.
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Sokolov had recently written an opinion piece about his outrage that Sergei Tsepovyaz, a well-known member of the Kushchyovskaya gang, had received a relatively light sentence for being involved in the 2011 murders of 12 people, including small children, reported the Moscow Times. Tsepovyaz was fined 150,000 rubles ($4,600) for covering up the crimes and the court ruled he did not participate in the murders.
In his opinion piece, Sokolov called Bastrykin, President Vladimir Putin and Prosecutor General Yury Chaika "servants of countless Russian 'Tsapoks,'" the Times also reported. The Kushchyovskaya gang's leader, Sergei Tsapok, is currently in jail awaiting his trial. Muratov said Sokolov had since publicly apologized for what he wrote.
Russia has one of the worst reputations for freedom of the press in the world, according to the Guardian. More than 50 journalists have been killed since the fall of the Soviet Union.