Reporter Who Angered Authorities Dies in Fall at Moscow Apartment

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Reporter Who Angered Authorities Dies in Fall at Moscow Apartment

MOSCOW -- A military correspondent for Russia's top business daily died after falling from a fifth-story window, and some in the news media speculated Monday that he might have been killed for his critical reporting.

Ivan Safronov, the military affairs writer for Kommersant, died Friday in the fall from a stairwell window in his apartment building in Moscow, according to officials.

Safronov, who had been a colonel in the Russian Space Forces before joining Kommersant in 1997, frequently angered authorities with his critical reporting and was repeatedly questioned by the Federal Security Service, the domestic successor to the KGB, which suspected him of divulging state secrets. No charges were ever filed because Safronov proved his reports were based on open sources, Kommersant said.

With prosecutors investigating the death, Kommersant and some other news media suggested foul play.

In December, Safronov irked officials when he was the first to report the third consecutive launch failure of the new Bulava intercontinental ballistic missile, which President Vladimir Putin had hailed as a basis of the nation's nuclear might. Authorities never acknowledged the failure.

Russia is among the most dangerous countries for journalists and is plagued by attacks on reporters who seek to expose official corruption and abuses. The problem was highlighted by the October killing of Anna Politkovskaya, an investigative reporter and a harsh critic of human rights abuses in Chechnya.

ASIA AND THE PACIFIC

· JAKARTA, Indonesia -- A powerful earthquake in western Indonesia killed at least nine people Tuesday, flattening hundreds of buildings and overwhelming hospitals on Sumatra island, officials and witnesses said. The magnitude-6.3 quake was felt hundreds of miles away in Singapore, where some office buildings were evacuated, and in neighboring Malaysia.

The U.S. Geological Survey said the tremor struck 20 miles below Solok, on Sumatra's western coast.

A 6.0 magnitude earthquake struck the West Sumatra area two hours after the slightly stronger tremor hit, the U.S. Geological Survey said.

· KABUL -- A "cancer of insurgency" in southern Afghanistan could drive the 2007 opium poppy harvest to a record level, the U.N. drug agency chief said Monday.

The U.N. predicted that last year's record would be broken by an increase in 15 provinces, including Helmand -- the world's largest poppy-growing region and the scene of attacks by Taliban fighters who use opium to fund their insurgency.


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