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23 Mar, 2008 11:14

EU urges Russia to find journalists’ killers

The European Union is pushing Moscow to find out who murdered two Russian journalists in separate incidents on Friday. Gadzhi Abashilov and Ilyas Shurpayev, both from Dagestan, worked for state-run TV companies.

Ilyas Shurpayev, a reporter from the First TV Channel, was found strangled in his Moscow apartment. His body will be flown home to Dagestan on Monday.

Just hours after the murder in Moscow, Gadzhi Abashilov the head of Dagestan's state TV and Radio Broadcasting Company was shot dead in the republic's capital Makhachkala. He was getting into his car when gunmen opened fire from a passing vehicle. Abashilov was buried in the republic's capital on Friday.

Hundreds of people gathered in Dagestestan's capital Makhachkala to pay their last respect to Gadzhi Abashilov.

Among the mourners were fellow journalists and high ranking officials.
“Gadzi Abashilov was tough and uncompromising but very professional. He was the one who led the ideological fight against religious extremism in the late 90s. This is a great loss for us all,” said Oleg Dobrodeyev, Head of Russia’s TV and Radio Company.

Russian business newspaper Kommersant says Gadzhi Abashilov was involved in an ideological battle. It quotes the Dagestan authorities as saying his name was on the hit lists of extremist websites.

The Head of the State TV and Radio Company (VGTRK) in Dagestan, Abashilov was killed on Friday night when he left a shop and got into his car.

“Investigators are looking into several versions of Gadzhi Abashilov's murder, but the main theory is that it’s linked with his professional activities. All measures are being taken to identify and detain those responsible,” said Vladimir Markin, representative of the General Prosecutor’s Office.

The police have found a car they suspect was used by the attackers. The black hatchback was abandoned a short distance from the scene of the crime.

Fifty-eight-year old Abashilov was appointed head of Dagestan's state TV and radio less than a year ago.

Before that he was the republic's Deputy Minister of Information, National Policy and External Affairs.
He was famous for his articles in Dagestan's newspapers. Sometimes he was thought to be too outspoken, but he always expressed his stance openly and frankly.

Earlier, another Dagestani journalist was killed in Moscow. Police say Ilyas Shurpayev, a correspondent of Russia’s state-controlled First TV channel was strangled with a belt in his apartment.

Police claim that Shurpayev knew his murderers and let them into his home. Investigators are now looking into several possibilities versions, including personal contacts or his professional activities

Both the murdered correspondents were reported to have been banned from one of Dagestan’s popular weeklies, Nastoyashee Vremya.

After discovering that he was subject to such a ban, Ilyas Shurpayev wrote about it on his internet blog just hours before he was murdered.

The police have not linked these two killings and have opened two independent criminal cases.

The European Union has urged Russia to do everything possible to find the murderers of the two journalists as soon as possible.