by Rhonda Schwartz, ABC News
Respected Russian journalist Ivan Safronov, who reported on military affairs, mysteriously plunged to his death from the 5th floor of his apartment building Friday, making him the 14th journalist to die under questionable circumstances in Putin's Russia, according to statistics compiled by the Committee to Protect Journalists.
"They killed Ivan. They killed Ivan," said a distraught former U.S. intelligence staffer familiar with Safronov when he learned the news today. "Another Russian journalist is dead. Ivan fell out of the window with his coat and hat on? Come on," said the former official who frequently visits Moscow and asked to remain anonymous.
Last October, Russian investigative journalist Anna Politkovskaya was gunned down in the elevator of her apartment building as she unloaded groceries just days before she was scheduled to publish a story about the use of torture by Chechnyan officials. (Her coffin is pictured above.)
Polikovskaya's killing, the 13th since Putin took office, led the Committee to Protect Journalists to declare Russia "the third deadliest country in the world for journalists" after Iraq and Algeria in their recent report, "Deadly News." All of the cases remain unsolved.
According to a report in this morning's Moscow Times, Safronov, who wrote for the Russian business newspaper "Kommersant," fell head first and fully clothed from a 5th floor window although he lived in an apartment on the 3rd floor of the building.
The Times reported the FSB -- the Federal Security Bureau, which is the successor agency to the KGB -- was unhappy with Safronov's reporting on sensitive weapons systems.
Safronov's death adds to the list of critics of the Putin regime and the FSB, who have died or been injured in strange circumstances in just the past six months:
- Investigative journalist Anna Politkovskaya was gunned down last October. The killers have not been caught.
- Former spy Alexander Litvinenko was poisoned last November in London by the rare radioactive substance polonium, which was slipped into a teapot.
- And just last week Russian scholar Paul Joyal was shot and wounded in an attack outside his suburban Maryland home, a few days after appearing on NBC News in a program about the Litvinenko case. So far, Maryland police have said the shooting appears to be the result of high crime in the area.
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