A full year after the mysterious death of the State Duma deputy and journalist Yuri Shchekochikhin, his colleagues at the Moscow bi-weekly Novaya gazeta have finally ended their almost equally mysterious silence about what may have caused it. The newspaper’s July 1 edition contains a number of articles about the Shchekochikhin affair, the net effect of which is to reinforce the suspicion that he was poisoned.
Shchekochikhin was a leading participant in efforts to root out the truth about some of the most shadowy aspects of the Chechen wars, such as the 1999 apartment bombings which the Kremlin blamed on Chechen terrorists but which some independent investigators have linked to the Federal Security Service (FSB).
The newspapers’ editors acknowledged that after extensive research by their own reporters, with the help of leading medical specialists and criminal investigators, they still cannot be certain whether Shchekochikhin died of natural causes or was murdered. The official diagnosis was that he was afflicted by a rare allergic syndrome, but the editors launched their own investigation precisely because they found that official version to be untrustworthy. Their July 1 summary listed four reasons for this: The toxin that caused the illness was not found; the official file about Shchekochikhin’s death has been classified as secret, not even to be shared with his relatives; several of the doctors involved in his case have said that they believe he was poisoned; and finally, the authorities rejected the editors’ request (while their colleague was still alive) to be given some tufts of his hair for urgent forensic analysis.