Capturing Conflict: Russian Newspaper Murders

Screening Monday 7th September, 2009

We are screening Russian Newspaper Murders as part of our Capturing Conflict Film Festival which showcases a selection of the most important films about the risks journalists and filmmakers take in order to get their stories out.


This one-hour documentary film tells the dramatic story of the dangers and pressures surrounding the press in today’s Russia.

In the evening of 9th October 2003, Alexei Sidorov, Editor in Chief of the ‘Togliatti Observer’, was murdered outside his home, becoming the sixth journalist in the industrial city of Togliatti to be murdered since 1995. The killer used an ice-pick, stabbing Sidorov several times before escaping in full view of witnesses and passers-by. Just 18 months earlier, Sidorov’s friend and the founding editor of the ‘Togliatti Observer’, Valery Ivanov, was shot outside his home with a silenced pistol.

Russia police and judicial officials announced within days that Sidorov’s murder was an ordinary affair, unconnected  with his professional activities – to the disbelief of his colleagues and family. The film follows the investigative work of a leading human rights lawyer Karen Nersisyan, acting on behalf of the families of the murdered editors, as he uncovers the truth of the matter.

Just days after Sidorov’s murder, Russian authorities arrested Russia’s richest man, oil mogul Mikhail Khodorkovsky. The manner of his arrest – masked KGB men stormed his aircraft – led many to believe this was the beginning of a new authoritarianism in Russia.

The film shows journalists at the Moscow-based ‘Novaya Gazeta’ newspaper, one of the very few national media outlets still critical of the government, battling the authorities, powerful businessmen and a corrupt judicial system in their fight to maintain a critical voice in Russia. The film observes Novaya Gazeta journalists investigating the severe beating of a colleague, and interviewing the father of glasnost’, former president Mikhail Gorbachev, giving his views on the state of affairs in Putin’s Russia.