Russian Reporter, Fleeing Official's Death Threat, Won't Be Around to Duel

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Russia does not sound like a very fun place to be a journalist, what with the tradition of unsolved violence against the press, so when the country's top investigator threatens you and says he'll lead the investigation into your death, skipping town makes sense. That's what Sergei Sokolov, a reporter for the investigative newspaper Novaya Gazeta, says happened when Alexander Bastrykin (pictured), the head of the Russian Equivalent of the FBI, took him out to the woods to discuss a report Sokolov filed charging Bastrykin's agency had protected a local official who was complicit in the murder of 12 people in 2010.

Bastrykin says he didn't take the reporter to the woods outside Moscow, and certainly didn't threaten him. "My job keeps me too busy for picnicking," he said, according to The Associated Press. But given that other reporters heard Bastrykin being pretty menacing toward Sokolov on an organized press trip, and that, per The New York Times' David M. Herszenhorn, three of Sokolov's colleagues have been killed over the last decade in still-unsolved cases, we're inclined to give Sokolov's story some credence. Bastrykin told Sokolov, "I consider myself insulted, and not just personally," according to The Guardian's Howard Amos citing Russian media. "In tsarist times they would have called people out to duel over this." 

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Bastrykin won't get his duel anytime soon. Sokolov has left the country and his editor is publicly holding Bastrykin responsible, publishing an open letter accusing him of making the threat and demanding a public guarantee Sokolov's safety, The New York Times reports.

But one thing's missing in this story: None of the reports we've been able to find have quoted exactly what Pastrykin allegedly said to Sokolov when he allegedly took him to the woods, threatened his life, and said he would be the one to investigate the journalist's death. 

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.