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The Suspicious Death Of Russian Journalist Olga Kotovskaya

The International Press Institute (IPI) is drawing attention to the death of Kaliningrad-based broadcast journalist Olga Kotovskaya.

Kotovskaya fell to her death from a 14th-floor window on November 16. Authorities called it a suicide, but Kotovskaya's friends and colleagues believe she was murdered in connection to her work.

"In recent years," an IPI statement says, "Kotovskaya, co-founder and former editor-in-chief of independent Kaliningrad broadcaster Kaskad, had been embroiled in a lawsuit with the Russian enclave’s former vice governor, Vladimir Pirogov, over control of the station.

"Pirogov had taken charge of Kaskad from Kotovskaya and her partners in 2006, using board documentation that Kotovskaya claimed contained forged signatures. A week before her death, the Kaliningrad Court of Arbitration upheld Kotovskaya’s forgery claims, opening the possibility of the return of Kaskad’s ownership to its original owners."

The regional branch of the Russian Union of Journalists is asking authorities to "not to choose the easiest path, but to consider other versions."

The Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations quotes Igor Rostov, Kotovskaya’s husband and former co-owner of Kaskad, as saying his wife was murdered.

"If I am found dead on the rails, do not believe I committed suicide,” he says.

Aleksei Simonov of the Moscow-based Glasnost Defense Foundation says, “There is not even an explanation as to why Kotovskaya was in the building from which she allegedly fell. The building had nothing to do with her; she had no reason to be there.”

Simonov says the authorities are considering opening a murder investigation.

IPI Deputy Director Alison Bethel McKenzie says the organization is calling for a full, transparent investigation into Kotovskaya's death.

“The authorities bear a tremendous responsibility here. All suspicious deaths must of course be investigated fully, but given the dreadful impunity surrounding the killing of journalists in Russia, this case is especially significant,” she said.