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Ivan Safronov and the Bulava Missile

Safronov.jpgWith the Estemirova murder, many journalists are digging through the (regrettably) robust archives of other dead Russian journalists.  One that has always struck me as tragically under-mentioned is the case of Ivan Safronov – he wasn’t a crusading dissident, he didn’t touch Chechnya, but rather was a well informed military muckraker.  It other words, you can find yourself targeted as a journalist reporting on almost anything, not just politics and Chechnya.

Here’s a little note from CPJ, dated June 25, 2009, which makes mention of Safronov’s reporting on the spectacular failures of the Bulava missile – a topic which has returned to the news this week.

Ivan Safronov, 51, a prominent military correspondent for the business daily Kommersant and a reserve colonel in the Russian Space Force, fell to his death from a staircase window in his Moscow apartment building on March 2, 2007. He had just returned from a business trip to the Middle East, where he had learned of purported sales of Russian defense technology to Iran and Syria. Three days before his death, Safronov told colleagues that he had been warned not to publish portions of the information, Kommersant reported. The journalist had also embarrassed defense officials two months earlier by reporting on the third consecutive test failure of the Bulava ballistic missile. Authorities classified the death as a suicide, yet Safronov left no note and, in the hours before his death, had made plans with family and friends and had shopped for groceries.

To read more on the embarrassment of the Bulava failure, see Michael Schwirtz’s piece in the New York Times.