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Authorities must investigate sudden death of newspaper designer Sergei Protazanov, says CPJ

(CPJ/IFEX) - The following is a 1 April 2009 CPJ press release:

RUSSIA: As Khimki newspaper designer dies, conflicting accounts emerge

New York, April 1, 2009 - Police in the Moscow suburb of Khimki must conduct a thorough investigation into the sudden death of newspaper designer Sergei Protazanov, the circumstances of which are in dispute, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.

Anatoly Yurov, chief editor of the pro-opposition Grazhdanskoye Soglasiye, told CPJ that he spoke with the victim by telephone on Monday. Protazanov, 40, said an unidentified assailant struck him on the head from behind, knocked him down, and beat him early Sunday morning on a street near his apartment, according to Yurov.

Khimki police told the RIA-Novosti news agency that a medical examiner ruled out assault as the case of death. Police said neighbors had discovered an intoxicated Protazanov with pills beside him, RIA-Novosti reported.

By all accounts, Protazanov was treated at a local hospital on Sunday and later discharged. Yurov said Protazanov complained of acute pain when the two spoke on Monday. The designer died later that day.

Yurov told CPJ that at least three other staffers of Grazhdanskoye Soglasiye have been attacked in recent years. Protazanov had been designing an edition devoted to alleged election fraud, the editor said.

"We mourn the death of Sergei Protazanov and send our condolences to his family, colleagues, and friends," CPJ's Europe and Central Asia Program Coordinator Nina Ognianova said. "We urge police to look into discrepancies in the accounts of his death."

CPJ is a New York-based, independent, nonprofit organization that works to safeguard press freedom worldwide.

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