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Prosecutor Asks to Acquit Soldier Who Killed Reporter

Lermontov, Russia; July 12 (RFE/RL) -- A military prosecutor at the trial of a Russian soldier who killed a journalist last year has proposed to acquit the serviceman.

Itar-Tass news agency quoted military prosecutor Dmitry Bibikov as telling the tribunal in the Southern Russian city of Lermontov today that private Sergei Fedotov killed journalist Natalya Alyakina in a "tragic accident." Bibikov said an investigation has found no proof that the soldier fired deliberately.

Alyakina, a journalist who worked for a German radio station and a magazine, was killed in June of last year by bullets fired from a heavy machine gun at a Russian military checkpoint in Chechnya. She had been traveling to the southern Russian town of Budyonnovsk, where Chechen separatists had seized hostages. Fedotov went on trial for reckless handling of a firearm in the incident.

Bibikov said that neither evidence given by witnesses, nor the conclusions of experts, showed that Fedotov had deliberately opened fire on the journalist's car after it had cleared the checkpoint.

Fedotov's lawyer argued the soldier fired accidentally.

Military judge Mikhail Pigunov announced a break in the court session. The tribunal is expected issue a verdict next week.