MOSCOW (TIP): A television news presenter aged 28 was shot dead in a city centre in Russia’s volatile North Caucasus, the latest deadly attack against a journalist in the region, officials said on Thursday. Meanwhile a senior regional transportation official in the same region barely escaped an attempt on his life, authorities said. The two incidents occurred within several hours of each other Wednesday in the city of Nalchik, the regional centre of the Kabardino- Balkaria region, although it was not clear whether they were linked.
The 28-year-old journalist Kazbek Gekkiyev was gunned down on Wednesday evening at about 9pm (1700 GMT) as he was returning from work, the regional interior ministry said. Gekkiyev was a news presenter at the regional branch of state channel VGTRK, but shocked colleagues said he never covered any controversial subjects that could offend anyone. 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,” the head of the regional branch Lyudmila Kazancheva said in a special segment dedicated to Gekkiyev that broadcast his smiling photographs.
“He was young, talented, intelligent and beautiful. He is no longer with us,” she said in a shaky voice. VGTRK’s federal news report shown in Moscow said Gekkiyev’s assailants apparently made sure he worked for the news program before opening fire. “Two men approached him and asked: ‘Are you the television presenter?'” a woman introduced by the VGTRK channel as Gekkiyev’s relative said, quoting a witness of the murder. He answered affirmatively, and the men shot him with an automatic gun, the woman said. Several hundred people gathered at the young man’s funeral in his native village, it said, showing crowds of people mourning and praying in the countryside.
Two of Gekkiyev’s former colleagues at the channel were threatened by militants in February, according to the Glasnost Defence Foundation. On Thursday morning assailants also targeted the regional deputy transportation minister Vladislav Dyachenko, whose car exploded when he was getting into it to go to work at around 9am, regional 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 militants seeking to establish an Islamic state across the region. In the past, Kabardino-Balkaria has been less affected by the violence than Chechnya and Dagestan, where a prominent opposition journalist, Khadzhimurad Kamalov, was murdered last December.