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In separate incidents, unknown individuals fire gunshots at offices of "Viche-inform" weekly and Nova Zorya publishing house

(IMI/IFEX) - On 14 October 2009, at approximately 10:30 p.m., unknown individuals fired at the editorial offices of "Viche-inform" weekly, in Volyn region. Eight shots were fired at the windows and door, according to editor-in-chief Vasyl Prostopchuk.

According to one of the leads the police is investigating, the attack may have been ordered by a former high-ranking official who was reportedly angry over some recent reports in the weekly. "After the publication (of the reports), threatening text messages were sent to my mobile phone. They said precisely, 'we will smash your ugly face.' The phone threats got to my deputy, I. Chub, but he did not pay attention to it," Prostopchuk said. The editor said the incident was an attack on press freedom and an obstruction of the right to practice journalism. He did not identify the former official who was issuing the threats.

In a separate incident, on the night of 4 October, unknown assailants fired several shots at the office of the Nova Zorya publishing house in Ivano-Frankivsk, in western Ukraine. Eight shots were fired against the windows of the building. The staff believes the attack is linked to reports appearing in the "Nova Zorya" newspaper, according to information relayed to IMI by editor-in-chief Mykhayklo Zaskharchuk.

The editor said that hooliganism should be excluded as a motive in this case because the assailants clearly targeted the publishing house and no other building in the neighbourhood was damaged. According to Zaskharchuk, the paper's summer issues included several critical stories on the murder of nationalist Maksim Chayka in Odessa, and other stories covering the visit of Patriarch Cyrill, patriarch of Moscow and All Russia, to the Ukraine. In the 1990s the Ukrainian church split into the Orthodox Church, which is run by the patriarchy in Moscow and is widespread in eastern Ukraine, and the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, which is more widespread in western Ukraine. The two churches are very hostile to each other and, as such, the visit by Patriach Cyrill to Ukraine was negatively perceived by western Ukrainians and in the western city of Ivano-Frankivsk, where the "Nova Zorya" newspaper is based.

"Nova Zorya" was founded in 1925 as an outlet of a Ukrainian catholic organization. In 1995, a publishing house by the same name was founded at the newspaper's headquarters.

IMI recalls that assailants used live cartridges to fire on "Express" daily three times during the last six months, the most recent incident having taken place on 6 October.

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