- near home
- chief editor
- Federal District Plus
- Street, Town, Region
- Togliatti, Samara Region
- local, "Tolyattinskoe obozrenie"
- Other Ties
- Cause of Death
- stabbed, contract killing?
- Legal Qualification
- 105.1 (murder)
- trial, acquittal, 11 October 2004
[Updated 16 October 2010]
The Investigative Committee, which now answers directly to the President (until recently it answered to the Prosecutor General), has given assurances to a visiting delegation from the CPJ that it will give serious consideration to 19 deaths that the CPJ believes to have been murders linked to the professional activities of the deceased journalist. One name on this list is that of Alexei Sidorov.
(See agency and Russian media reports on CPJ press conference)
From “PARTIAL JUSTICE” report (June 2009)
At around 9 pm on 9 October 2003 Alexei Sidorov, chief editor of the "Togliatti Review" (Tolyattiskoe obozrenie), left the newspaper’s offices in the city centre. He drove home and parked his car a few blocks away from his apartment. When Sidorov reached the corner of the block of flats where he lived he was attacked and stabbed repeatedly. He managed to reach the stairwell entrance and call for help. The ambulance only arrived forty minutes later by which time Sidorov was dead.
Following Valery Ivanov’s murder Alexei Sidorov took over as chief editor of the newspaper in May 2002. The appointment was not universally popular and certain of the staff left to work for a rival publication. The "Togliatti Review" lost some of its edge, appearing less frequently and including fewer dramatic exposés. There was a drop in the print run, the paper experienced financial difficulties and there was talk of selling it to a new owner. Formerly the newspaper’s leading correspondent, Sidorov now concentrated on running the "Togliatti Review", picking themes and subjects for his journalists to write up.
Three days after Sidorov died the official version was made public. The prosecutor’s office declared that this was an everyday crime and soon a suspect was found. A young neighbour of Sidorov’s with no previous criminal convictions, Yevgeny Maininger, confessed that he had run into the editor that evening and, after a quarrel, stabbed him.
Sidorov’s relatives and colleagues at the newspaper took a quite different view. They saw his death as a second contract killing, linked to his activities as a journalist but named few specific reasons. When Valery Ivanov was murdered several convincing arguments were put forward. In Sidorov’s case neither relatives nor colleagues could be more precise than to suggest that the aim was to force the "Togliatti Review" out of business (it kept going).
Alexei Sidorov was not as secretive as his predecessor. Unlike Ivanov, colleagues on the newspaper knew about Sidorov’s plans for publication and were usually co-authors of the published material. One of Sidorov’s last investigations concerned the sharing out, between police and a local criminal gang, of the property of a deceased crime boss. A journalist from the "Review", working on the subject with Sidorov, received no threats himself and did not know if Sidorov had any original material.
It was unlikely that Sidorov was targeted by the same crime bosses as Valery Ivanov. In publications about his predecessor’s murder Sidorov drew his information from the law enforcement agencies conducting the investigation and supported the view that the open tender for the city’s fuel and oil supplies was the main reason for the killing.
Nevertheless, the official investigators at the local and regional level did not initially exclude the possibility that this was a contract killing. Nor did they set themselves the task of solving the crime in record time. That pressure came from above.
A criminal case was opened on 9 October 2003 by the local prosecutor’s office under Article 105.1 (Murder) of the Criminal Code. This soon became the more specific charge of “the deliberate infliction of death due to personal animosity in a spontaneous private quarrel”.
Nevertheless, the deputy prosecutor for the Samara Region set up a large team of investigators to look into the crime and they were supported by 22 detectives, at the local and the regional level, including Colonel Yefremov, head of criminal investigations for the Samara Region. The organisation of such a strong team to investigate an ordinary crime was officially attributed to the “complexity and large volume of investigative processes”. Sidorov’s father would later voice the opinion that the work was mainly done, nevertheless, by the local prosecutor’s office even though “the best investigators” and Russia’s deputy Prosecutor General Kolesnikov were formally participants.
The suspected murderer was detained after the seven witnesses to the killing had been questioned. There remains some doubt that the testimony of these witnesses was conscientiously and thoroughly processed. Within seven days of the murder, however, deputy Prosecutor General Vladimir Kolesnikov announced that the crime was solved.
After three days’ in a police cell Maininger confessed to the crime in the presence of an appointed defence attorney. Later the suspect claimed that he was forced to confess and retracted his testimony. There seems little doubt that he was beaten during that period and the main evidence against him remained circumstantial. A metal worker at a local factory, Maininger made a copy of the supposed murder weapon for the investigators: the original sharpened peg, intended for fishing, was not found, however, neither were the blood-stained clothes or any finger-prints. Sidorov had no less than 11 stab wounds, but none by themselves were fatal. Had he been treated promptly he might have survived and this, in the opinion of some, is further evidence of the everyday, unprofessional nature of the crime.
The Komsomolsky district court in Togliatti began hearing the case on 8 June 2004. The active participation of the GDF and the Russian Pen Centre, which hired lawyers Karen Nersisyan and Tamara Kuchma to act as Maininger’s defence team, resulted in a trial that was unprecedented in its openness. Vladimir Sidorov, Alexei’s father, who had access to the case materials as the injured party, also played a very active role. As a result, numerous violations of the Criminal Procedural Code committed during the gathering of evidence by police and the investigators from the prosecutor’s office were exposed. Certain observers, such as journalist Sergei Davydov from the Togliatti Review, who had followed both the killings of Ivanov and Sidorov, became convinced that the accused was the murderer and might well have been hired to kill Sidorov.
The prosecution failed to persuade the panel of judges and on 11 October 2004 Yevgeny Maininger was acquitted as “not having been involved in the murder of Alexei Sidorov”. After the acquittal the investigation we re-opened but Sidorov’s family, was not permitted to see the results of this new investigation. Attorneys for the injured party and for Yevgeny Maininger submitted formal petitions and complaints: against deputy Prosecutor General Kolesnikov; for criminal charges to be pressed against the investigators in the Sidorov case; and for compensation. Sidorov’s family and Valery Ivanov’s widow also petitioned for the two cases to be combined but this was turned down.
In autumn 2007 the case was again re-opened but closed after a potential new witness, a businessman from Krasnodar, proved to have nothing specific to add to the evidence.