Russian newspaper says received threat after reporting death in Syria

MOSCOW (Reuters) - A newspaper in Siberia said on Wednesday it was threatened with retribution after reporting the death in Syria of a Russian private military contractor.

The story, in the Courier.Sreda.Berdsk newspaper, said that the 36-year-old man, Yevgeny Tretyakov, had been killed in Syria’s Homs province on May 15 and that his body had been delivered to his hometown of Berdsk this week.

The body, which the newspaper said was heavily burnt, was buried on Tuesday.

Officials in Russia are secretive about military losses in the Syrian campaign and reporters in the provinces are often the first to reveal information about the funerals of fallen fighters in remote towns and villages.

Galina Komornikova, the newspaper’s editor-in-chief, told Reuters a man had phoned the editorial office soon after the story’s publication and threatened to come over and “deal with” her and the relevant reporters.

“He introduced himself, said he works for the FSB (the Federal Security Service), and that it’s not allowed to report on Syria,” Komornikova said.

The man did not show up at the office, she said.

It is thought to be the first time a newspaper in Russia has publicly complained of coming under pressure over Syria, suggesting Russian authorities may be growing more sensitive to losses there.

The newspaper said it was standing by its story.

“In a small town it is impossible to make such news secret ... and people must know the truth,” it said.

The FSB and the Defence Ministry did not respond to requests for comment.

Reporting by Maria Tsvetkova; Editing by Robin Pomeroy