Russian died reporting on arms sales to Iran, Syria
the associated press
Tucson, Arizona | Published: 03.07.2007
advertisementMOSCOW — A journalist who plunged to his death from his apartment building window faced threats while reporting on a sensitive story that Russia planned to sell sophisticated missiles to Syria and Iran, his newspaper reported Tuesday.
Ivan Safronov, a military affairs writer for the daily Kommersant, died Friday after plunging from a stairwell window between the fourth and fifth stories.
Kommersant reported Tuesday that Safronov had told his editors he was working on a story about Russian plans to sell weapons to Iran and Syria via Belarus.
The deals, if concluded, could upset the balance of power in the Middle East and strain Russia's relations with Israel and the United States, which strongly objected to earlier Russian weapons sales to the two countries.
Kommersant reported that Safronov, 51, had recently told colleagues he was warned he would face a criminal investigation for possibly releasing state secrets if he reported allegations that Russia had struck a deal to supply Iskander missiles to Syria.
"Ivan Safronov said he was not going to write about it for a while because he was warned that it would create a huge international scandal and the FSB (Federal Security Service) would launch a criminal case on charges of breaching state secrets," the newspaper said.
Safronov did not say where the warning came from, according to Kommersant, but he had repeatedly been questioned by the FSB — the KGB's main successor agency.
Prosecutors have said nothing about Safronov's death, except that they are investigating it as a suicide.
The death comes amid a rash of attacks on journalists who write about official corruption, Chechnya and other abuses and amid fears that, under President Vladimir Putin, Russia is backsliding toward authoritarianism.
Investigative reporter Anna Politkovskaya, a Kremlin critic, was shot dead in Moscow in October. The U.S.-based Committee to Protect Journalists said that 13 journalists have been killed in contract-style murders since Putin took office in 2000.