NIZHNY NOVGOROD, Russia -- The governor of the Nizhny Novgorod region, Gleb Nikitin, says he will do everything he can to ensure a thorough investigation of the death of the chief editor of the Koza Press news website, Irina Slavina, who died after staging an act of self-immolation following a police search of her apartment last week.
Nikitin said he "sincerely mourns" Slavina's passing and he posted a photo on Instagram on October 4 that had been taken at a ceremony where he presented her with an award for journalism, writing that he personally knew Slavina, with whom he said he had a "constructive" working relationship.
I "will do everything to have the investigation of the circumstances that led to the tragedy under control on the highest level possible," he wrote.
Slavina died after setting herself on fire in front of the police headquarters in the city of Nizhny Novgorod on October 2. Before staging the self-immolation, she posted a statement on Facebook, saying "Blame the Russian Federation for my death."
She did so a day after police searched her apartment looking for evidence linking her with the opposition Open Russia group.
Andrei Pivovarov, the executive director of Open Russia, told the radio station Ekho Moskvy on October 2 that Slavina had nothing to do with his group.
The Commission on Freedom of Speech and the Protection of Journalists and the Commission on Civil Rights at the presidential Council on Human Rights have called on the Investigative Committee to thoroughly investigate the circumstances surrounding Slavina's self-immolation.
"Slavina's act looks like an extreme, but in a way logical, form of protest against those who are supposed to protect the law, but premeditatedly violate it when dealing with journalists," a statement from the two commissions said.
On October 3, the Investigative Committee's branch in Nizhny Novgorod stated that Slavina's suicide had nothing to do with the searches of her apartment, during which her computers and mobile phones were confiscated.
"The presidential Council on Human Rights called the statement "an expression of the utmost cynicism," describing it as "bankrupt" on both a human and professional level.
"Slavina was systematically targeted and persecuted by local law enforcement. Huge fines that brought her family to the edge of poverty and, at last, the outrageous search and confiscation of all of the tools of her professional activities... affected her psychological state," the council said in a separate statement.
Slavina was fined several times for her articles and for participating in unsanctioned pickets in the past.