Russian Journalist Seeks Political Asylum In Ukraine

KIEV, Ukraine -- A Russian journalist has requested political asylum in Ukraine, he said Tuesday, claiming that authorities in Siberia fabricated a criminal case against him as retribution for his investigations into suspected corruption among regional officials.

Russian journalist Alexander Kosvintsev is seen during an interview with The Associated Press in Kiev, Ukraine, Tuesday, Feb. 6, 2007

Alexander Kosvintsev said he feared for his safety in Russia because of his work, including with a paper he founded in the 1990s in his home region of Kemerovo, in central Siberia.

He told The Associated Press that the subjects of his journalistic probes included the regional governor, Aman Tuleyev.

He asserted that a criminal case authorities in Kemerovo opened against him on charges of illegal entrepreneurship was politically motivated and fabricated, and that law enforcement agents in the region have harassed his relatives in their efforts to prosecute him.

"They create an environment in which it is impossible to work or to live," Kosvintsev said, adding that he filed an application for asylum.

Ukrainian authorities and officials in Kemerovo could not immediately be reached for comment late Tuesday.

Journalists who criticize or investigate officials and companies, particularly in Russia's far-flung regions, often complain of harassment and threats by local authorities and gangs.

Many observers contend that Russian authorities resent critical reporting and are uninterested in solving journalists' killings that have plagued the country.

For some time, Kosvintsev had a job as a regional promotional manager for Novaya Gazeta, the Moscow newspaper where Anna Politkovskaya worked, said Sergei Sokolov, an editor at the paper.

Politkovskaya, an investigative journalist and Kremlin critic who exposed human rights abuses, was fatally shot in an apparent contract killing in October.

Sokolov said Kosvintsev fled Kemerovo and came to Moscow last August. He later traveled to Ukraine and has not returned to Russia.

Source: International Herald Tribune