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Television journalist dies after falling from window, local activists believe she was murdered

(CJES/IFEX) - The division of the Russian Union of Journalists in the Kaliningrad region has called on law enforcement agencies to investigate the death of prominent local television journalist Olga Kotovskaya, one of the founders of the regional television company Kaskad, who is believed to have committed suicide. The Russia Union of Journalists believes the suicide theory is convenient, but it is not the only one.

"The administration of the division of the Russian Union of Journalists in the Kaliningrad region has asked law enforcement agencies to conduct a thorough investigation into the death of Olga Kotovskaya and open a criminal case," an official with the division of the Russian Union of Journalists in the Kaliningrad region said, citing an official statement by the Russian Union of Journalists.

Olga Kotovskaya died on November 16, 2009 after falling out of a 14th floor window in Kaliningrad. A forensic examination has been scheduled as part of the official probe into this case.

In 1991, Kotovskaya and a group of colleagues created the independent television company Kaskad, which later developed into a powerful media group comprised of two television channels, a daily newspaper, two radio stations and an advertising agency. Kotovskaya was editor-in-chief and creative director of the television channel for a long time.

In 2006, Kotovskaya and her partners Igor Rostov and Svetlana Ryabukha lost control of the television company to a group of people including Vladimir Pirogov, former deputy governor of the Kaliningrad region. Kotovskaya and her partners tried to contest that decision. The region's Arbitration Court reversed the decision to change the company's charter, under which the rights to run the company were transferred to its board of directors. Kotovskaya, who was among the plaintiffs in that case, said the protocol of the meeting was falsified.

The new administration of the company accused its predecessors of embezzlement.

Igor Rostov, Kotovskaya's husband and former co-owner of Kaskad, told Igor Rudnikov, a member of the local parliament, after the death of his wife: "She was murdered. If I am found dead on the rails, do not believe that I committed suicide." Arbitration Court press officer Igor Belov told "Nezavisimaya Gazeta" spokesman he finds it strange that Kotovskaya, who was to take part in a new trial seeking the return of the television company, committed suicide.

Local opposition activists were also categorical. "I do not have the slightest doubt that she was murdered. And she was murdered for her journalistic activities. I cannot imagine that a person who has won the main lawsuit in her life has decided to jump to her death from the 14th floor. The fact that violence against journalists and owners of media outlets has become the norm in the Kaliningrad region and is almost never punished should at least attract the attention of the authorities and the appropriate bodies," Mikhail Chesalin, leader of the local division of Patriots of Russia and a member of the local parliament, told "Nezavisimaya Gazeta". His colleague Solomon Ginzburg told "Nezavisimaya Gazeta" that Kotovskaya had sought his help a year ago, saying that a high-ranking official had urged her to stop taking part in the litigation involving the fate of Kaskad.

Investigators have changed their position under pressure from public opinion. Marianna Andryushina, press secretary for the Investigations Committee of the prosecutor's office of the Kalinigrad region, said the investigators will be considering all possible theories in Kotovskaya's death.

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