x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Independent Russian newspaper office hit by explosion

An explosion wrecks the offices of a local independent paper in Russia's future Olympic host city Sochi, the paper's founder says.

An explosion early Friday wrecked the offices of a local independent paper in Russia's future Olympic host city Sochi, the paper's founder said.

The blast occurred in the early hours of the morning after two men forced open the metal shutters and broke a window near the editor's desk, throwing an object on it, Narodnaya Gazeta's founder Tatiana Chernovalova told AFP.

"There would certainly be victims if it happened in daytime," she said. "All of our equipment and furniture are destroyed. We have nothing to work on."

The paper has circulation of about 100,000 and is housed on the first floor of a five storey residential building.

Witnesses heard a loud pop and flash, and saw two men running away, Ms Chernovalova said, adding that police had dismissed testimonies about an explosion instead saying it was only a fire.

A local police official told Interfax the fire was caused by arson.

But Ms Chernovalova said a fire could not have blasted out a metal door. The building now has no electricity or hot water due to the damage.

"What happened is clearly linked to our editorial activity. We covered several sensitive issues in the past few months," such as illegal construction, corruption among city officials, and conflicts surrounding resettlement, she said.

Sochi is to host the 2014 Winter Olympics and has turned into a real estate bonanza in recent years, much to the dismay of local residents.

In October, a Russian mafia boss involved in construction in Sochi was gunned down in what the media attributed to conflicts over the share of the Olympic windfall. The Games have been estimated to cost about US31 billion (Dh113.86 billion).

* AFP