A renowned culture writer in Russia was found stabbed to death in his apartment in St. Petersburg, BBC reported Friday. The potential murder case adds to the body count in Russia, one of the deadliest countries in the world for journalists, according to media advocates.
Dmitry Tsilikin, 54, was found late Thursday evening after friends and family said he went missing. His body had multiple knife wounds and his phone and computer were missing from his apartment, prompting police to open a homicide investigation. The Russian Investigative Committee said it had not ruled out “murder committed on domestic grounds.” No potential suspects have been identified.
Tsilikin was a popular culture and arts critic who appeared on TV, radio and in print outlets such as Kommersant, Vogue and Elle. He may have been dead in his apartment for at least two days before the body was found.
“This is a great tragedy for the entire journalistic community, because he was a very well-known, great journalist who wrote on culture and art,” St. Petersburg Union of Journalists chairwoman Lyudmila Fomichev said.
Russia ranks 180 out of 199 countries for press freedom, behind Iraq and Sudan, the international watchdog Freedom House has found. At least 34 journalists have been killed in Russia since Russian President Vladimir Putin took power in 2000. The Committee to Protect Journalists calls Russia “one of the deadliest countries in the world for journalists,” and counts 36 journalists killed in Russia since 1992. A full list of the dead can be found here.
Russia’s dangerous climate for journalists was thrust into U.S. mainstream politics recently after Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump repeatedly praised Putin as a strong leader. Putin is accused of killing his opponents and critics, including many reporters.
But Trump said Putin deserves the benefit of the doubt. “You’re supposed to be innocent until proven guilty, at least in our country. It has not been proven that he’s killed reporters,” Trump said in December.
Critics found his remarks troubling. “It may be true that there’s no evidence that Putin plays a direct role in state killings. It may be true that Trump would never support state-ordered killings of journalists. But journalists living in the Putin-led Russia that Trump admires can have their lives and careers threatened in several ways,” the Washington Post wrote in December. “There’s a reason that groups such as Freedom House consistently rank Russia as ‘not free’ in its rankings of press freedom: The bar for that freedom is higher than just ‘the head of state doesn’t directly order the murder of journalists.’ ”