A television news presenter has been shot dead in a city centre of Russia’s North Caucasus area, the latest in a series of deadly attacks against journalists in the region, officials have said.
A senior regional transportation official in the same region also barely escaped an attempt on his life, authorities said.
The two incidents occurred within several hours of each other between Wednesday evening and Thursday morning in the city of Nalchik, the regional centre of the Kabardino-Balkaria region. It was not clear if they were linked.
Kazbek Gekkiyev, the 28-year-old journalist, was gunned down on Wednesday evening at about 9:00pm local time (17:00 GMT) as he was returning from work, the regional interior ministry said.
Gekkiyev worked as a news presenter at the regional branch of state channel VGTRK. Colleagues said that he had not covered any stories that were considered to be controversial.
Unknown assailants shot him three times, and the journalist died on the spot, said the Moscow-based Investigative Committee.
“The investigation considers … this brazen crime was a warning to other journalists who are reporting on the results of the fight against the bandit underground groups operating in the region,” the committee said.
Gekkiyev’s employer said it was cancelling all of its entertainment and news programmes to mourn him.
“Today there will be no news on our channel,” Lyudmila Kazancheva, regional head of the channel, said in a special segment dedicated to Gekkiyev.
“He was young, talented, intelligent and beautiful. He is no longer with us,” she said.
Government official targeted
VGTRK’s federal news report shown in Moscow said Gekkiyev’s assailants apparently made sure he worked for the news programme before opening fire.
Witnesses said that two men approached him and asked if he was a television presenter. When he answered affirmatively, he was shot with an automatic weapon.
Several hundred people gathered at the young man’s funeral in his native village, VGTRK reported, showing crowds of people mourning and praying in the countryside.
Two of Gekkiyev’s former colleagues at the channel were threatened in February, according to the Glasnost Defence Foundation.
On Thursday morning, assailants also targeted Vladislav Dyachenko, the regional deputy transportation minister, whose car exploded when he was on his way to work at around 9:00am local time (05:20 GMT), police said.
The bomb that targeted his car contained about 200 grammes of TNT hidden in an empty beer can, police said in a statement.
Dyachenko was only lightly wounded, and his driver was unharmed.
The North Caucasus sees near daily attacks that officials blame on groups seeking to establish an Islamic state across the region.