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Russia 'Death Threat' Investigator Apologizes


The head of the Russian Investigative Committee, Aleksandr Bastrykin (left), talks to a resident during a visit to Kazan in March.
The chairman of Russia's main federal investigating authority has reportedly apologized to a journalist and his boss after being accused of a gangland-style death threat.

Investigative Committee chief Aleksandr Bastrykin expressed his regret publicly to the "Novaya gazeta" newspaper's chief editor, Dmitry Muratov, for what he called an "emotional breakdown."

Bastrykin's apology came just hours after he'd denied Muratov's accusation.

Muratov had said Bastrykin last week took "Novaya gazeta" Deputy Editor Sergei Sokolov into the woods outside the capital and threatened him.

"I would like to begin by offering my apologies to Dmitry Andreyevich [Muratov] and his newspaper for the emotional breakdown that I allowed myself at the meeting [with Sergei Sokolov in Nalchik]," Bastrykin said, referring to a confrontation that reportedly took place last week in the capital of the republic of Kabardino-Balkaria, in southern Russia.

Then, according to RFE/RL's Russian Service, Bastrykin apologized privately to Sokolov for what he described as a "roadside" conversation.

Bastrykin had met with editors of leading media outlets earlier on June 14 to discuss the alleged incidents.

Before that, Bastrykin had denied the "Novaya gazeta" allegations, calling them "an intricate mix of facts and obvious lies."

Muratov said on June 13 that Sokolov had fled Russia in the wake of the incident, fearing for his life.

After shaking hands with Bastrykin at the June 14 press conference, Muratov said Sokolov was no longer under threat, adding that Bastrykin's apologies had been accepted.

"We received safety guarantees for our staff members, including those working in the Caucasus as well as Sergei Sokolov," Muratov said. "There are no more grudges between us, we continue to work on the cases that we have been working on together for the past six years, including the Anna Politkovskaya [murder] case."

* CLARIFICATION: This story has been amended to clarify that the precise nature Bastrykin's apology to Sokolov has not been divulged.

With additional reporting by Interfax and ITAR-TASS