MOSCOW (Reuters) - A Russian journalist died on Friday after setting herself on fire in front of the local branch of the interior ministry in the city of Nizhny Novgorod, a day after her apartment was searched by police, her news outlet said.
Prior to her self-immolation, Irina Slavina wrote on her Facebook page: “I ask you to blame the Russian Federation for my death.” She worked as editor-in-chief at Koza Press, a small local news outlet that advertised itself as having “no censorship, no orders ‘from above’”.
A day before her death, she wrote on Facebook that police officers and investigators had searched her apartment, writing that they were looking for “brochures, leaflets and accounts” from the Open Russia opposition group, which is financed by Kremlin critic Mikhail Khodorkovsky.
She said they seized notebooks, her laptop and other electronics, as well as her daughter’s laptop and her husband’s mobile phone.
Russia’s Investigative Committee said it was opening a preliminary inquiry after a woman self-immolated in Nizhny Novgorod, a city of 1.3 million around 400 km (250 miles) east of Moscow. It did not name Slavina in its statement.
The committee’s local branch in the Nizhny Novgorod region later said that Slavina’s self-immolation had nothing to do with the searches carried out at her apartment on the previous day.
It said she was only a witness in the criminal case for which the searches were being carried out.
Members of Russia’s opposition said Slavina had been under pressure from the authorities.
“Over the past years security officials have subjected her to endless persecution because of her opposition (activities),” opposition politician Dmitry Gudkov wrote on Instagram.
“What a nightmare,” Ilya Yashin, another Kremlin critic, wrote on Twitter. “All of these cases of police amusing themselves, these shows of men in masks - these are not games. The government is truly breaking people psychologically.”
Reporting by Polina Ivanova, Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber and Anton Zverev; Editing by Mark Trevelyan, Gareth Jones and Mark Heinrich
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