Russian Journalist and Putin Critic Dies After Suffering ‘Major Blunt Trauma’

Nikolai Andrushchenko's newspaper linked his death to his reporting on government corruption.

  • Published 20 April 2017

A 73-year-old Russian journalist who has openly criticized President Vladimir Putin’s administration died on 19 April 2017, just over a month after he was attacked and beaten by unknown aggressors.

Novy Peterburg founder Nikolai Andrushchenko died in a St. Petersburg hospital. The weekly newspaper’s editor, Denis Usov, reportedly attributed the 9 March 2017 attack to Andrushchenko’s reporting on alleged “connections between St. Petersburg city officials and organized criminal syndicates.”

Usov said officials demanded documents, and then “he was found near his home with a broken head.” Andrushchenko, a former St. Petersburg city council member, was reportedly placed in a medical coma after suffering major blunt trauma to his head, but never recovered.

Andrushchenko’s death marks the seventh fatal attack against a journalist during Putin’s second presidency, and the second in 2017. The day after he was assaulted, another journalist, 35-year-old Yevgeny Khamaganov, was also attacked after reporting on corruption. Khamaganov died on 17 March 2017 from his injuries. 

Novy Peterburg director Alevtina Ageev said:

The police are unlikely to put much effort into the investigation, since Andruschenko wrote a lot about the arbitrariness of the police, and he was not liked for his intransigence.

In November 2007, Andrushchenko was jailed after being charged with defamation and obstruction of justice. While authorities attributed the charges to his coverage of a murder investigation and the subsequent trial in St. Petersburg, his colleagues at Novy Peterburg said it was really because of the publication’s criticism of local officials prior to the Russian parliamentary elections that December. The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) reported at that time:

Local authorities have repeatedly harassed Andrushchenko, 64, and Novy Peterburg, the paper’s co-founder, Alevtina Ageyeva, told CPJ. Andrushchenko was beaten by unidentified attackers on his way home on November 9. On November 15, the paper’s print run containing articles about an upcoming dissenters’ march and critical stories about St. Petersburg’s head of police was bought out anonymously, and the company in charge of distributing Novy Peterburg refused to allow any remaining copies to appear on newsstands. A week later, the biggest local publishing house, Gazetny Kompleks, said it was overloaded and refused to print the paper’s issue; and another publishing house refused to print the edition carrying an article by opposition leader Garry Kasparov on its front page.

In an August 2015 interview, Andrushchenko said of Putin:

His understanding of politics is all about making money, in my view. Money was at the center of his politics right from the start.

The attacker (or attackers) remain at large. 

CPJ released a statement calling on Russian authorities to “swiftly bring to justice all those responsible” those responsible for Andrushchenko’s death. The group’s Europe and Central Asia Program coordinator, Nina Ognianova, said: “Journalists in Russia have consistently been killed with impunity, and only complete, credible prosecution will break the cycle of violence.”

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