July 7, 2001, in Slavyansk, Ukraine
Unknown attackers assaulted Aleksandrov with baseball bats as he entered Tor's offices, according to local news reports. Tor deputy director Sergey Cherneta described the attack to the regional newspaper Donbass: "All of a sudden we heard...blows and screams, after that we heard a moan. I ran downstairs....Our manager was lying in the lobby in a pool of blood with his head cracked open. Two large baseball bats were left nearby."
Aleksandrov was rushed to the local city hospital, where he underwent surgery. The journalist never regained consciousness and died from the head injuries on the morning of July 7.
Aleksandrov's colleagues believe the murder was connected to his television program, "Bez Retushi" (Without Censorship), which featured investigative coverage of government corruption and organized crime. The program often criticized Slavyansk municipal authorities.
Soon after the attack, Donetsk regional prosecutor Viktor Pshonka launched an official investigation. The chief of the Donetsk Administration of Internal Affairs, Gen. Vladimir Malyshev, stated that revenge was the leading motive in the murder but did not elaborate.
Aleksandrov became well known in 1998, when prosecutors brought a criminal case against him for insulting the honor and dignity of a parliamentary deputy. The Slavyansk City Court initially found the journalist guilty but later reviewed its decision after criticism from Ukrainian journalists and international human rights organizations.
The deputy withdrew his defamation complaint against the journalist last year. That removed the immediate legal threat but did not clear Aleksandrov's name, since his conviction was still technically under review. Claiming damage to his professional reputation, Aleksandrov appealed to the European Court of Human Rights, where the case was pending at the time of his murder.
In late August, law enforcement officials arrested an unnamed suspect, according to local press reports. The officials claimed that Aleksandrov's murder was a case of mistaken identity and was not connected with his journalism.
A parliamentary investigative commission was established in September to examine Aleksandrov's murder. In December, the commission voiced its doubts about the validity of the "mistaken identity" theory and stated that it knew who had really killed Aleksandrov, according to local reports.
While the commission refused to forward this information to law enforcement officials, it accused the Ukrainian Security Service of falsifying evidence in the case.
In mid-December, the General Prosecutor's Office officially charged the suspect detained in August, Yury Verdyuk, with Aleksdandrov's murder, local and international sources reported. On December 27, the Donetsk Regional Court scheduled Verdyuk's trial for September 11, 2002.
The journalist's colleagues and family maintain that he was killed for his work, local sources told CPJ.
Beats Covered: Corruption, Crime
Local or Foreign: Local
Type of Death: Murder
Suspected Source of Fire: Government Officials
Taken Captive: No
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