Russian state journalist killed by ‘stray bullet’ at Crimea base

Svetlana Babayeva was head of the Rossiya Segodnya media group’s bureau in Simferopol, Crimea’s second-largest city.

Russian soldiers march as a local resident waves a Russian flag
Russian soldiers march as a local waves a Russian flag outside a military base in the village of Perevalne, outside Simferopol, Crimea in 2014 [File: Ivan Sekretarev/AP]

A Russian female journalist working for a leading Kremlin-backed media group has died in a shooting accident at a military training ground in Russian-occupied Crimea, Moscow-installed officials and state media outlets have reported.

Svetlana Babayeva, who was killed on Friday, headed up the Russian state-owned Rossiya Segodnya media group’s bureau in Simferopol, the second-largest city on the Crimean peninsula, which Russia annexed from Ukraine in 2014.

RIA Novosti, a Russian news agency and subsidiary of Rossiya Segodnya, reported on Friday that Babayeva was killed by a stray bullet during shooting practice at a military training ground.

No further details of the journalist’s killing were provided. Pro-Kremlin figures paid tribute to Babayeva in social media posts.

Sergei Aksyonov, the Russian governor of Crimea, called her death an irrevocable loss.

“Svetlana did a great deal to convey to the public the truth about what is going on in Kherson region,” said Vladimir Saldo, the Russian-backed head of Ukraine’s southern, mainly Russian-occupied Kherson region.

Russia’s Foreign Affairs Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova wrote on her Telegram page: “I love you very much, Sveta.”

Ukraine has sanctioned the Rossiya Segodnya media group, calling its CEO Dmitry Kiselyov “the central figure of government propaganda supporting the deployment of Russian troops in Ukraine”.

In a statement posted by RIA Novosti, Kiselyov said Babayeva was a “warm person, who strongly supported Russia,” and “wanted to support our heroes”.

Babayeva was previously bureau chief for RIA Novosti in the United Kingdom and United States, and editor of the Gazeta.Ru website, the agency said. Gazeta.Ru paid tribute to their former editor-in-chief who they said was a “professional of the highest standard”.

Russia continued its crackdown on independent journalists on Friday declaring Natalya Sindeyeva, head of the TV channel Dozhd, a “foreign agent” along with two journalist colleagues.

The names of Sindeyeva, Vladimir Romensky and Ekaterina Kotrikadze appeared on the latest Russian justice ministry list of “foreign agents”.

The three had been added because of their “political activities”, the ministry said.

Launched in 2008, TV Dozhd covered Russia’s opposition and protest movements and last year, the channel itself was labelled a “foreign agent”.

All main independent media outlets in Russia, including radio station Echo of Moscow and Dozhd TV, have been shut down or have suspended their operations in the country.

Dozhd wound up its Russia operations and suspended broadcasting from Russia with an emotional show on March 3, less than two weeks after Moscow invaded Ukraine.

The channel resumed broadcasting on July 18 from studios in neighbouring Latvia.

Since the start of the war in Ukraine, Russia has introduced a law providing for up to 15 years in prison for spreading information about the military deemed false by the authorities, such as calling the invasion of Ukraine a war, which the Kremlin has ordered be referred to as a “special military operation”.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies