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Journalists Hold Final Ceremony For Slain Colleague

June 19, 1995

BUDYONNOVSK, Russia (AP) _ Journalists crowded around an open red coffin Sunday to honor one of their own who was killed by Russian forces as she tried to enter Budyonnovsk to report on the taking of hostages by Chechen rebels.

Natalya Alyakina, 40, was shot dead as the car in which she was riding approached the southern city on Saturday evening. Her husband, Gizbert Mrozek, said soldiers fired at the rear of the vehicle after allowing it to pass through a roadblock on the outskirts of the city.

Two bullets fired from a machine gun mounted on the troops’ armored vehicle mortally wounded Alyakina, who worked for the German RUFA news agency and Focus magazine. Her driver was wounded, while her husband, who also sat in the front seat, was unhurt.

A soldier was detained on suspicion of premeditated murder, officials said.

Mrozek, his hands still covered with his wife’s blood, knelt by the coffin.

``We thought that if we don’t come close, it would not be that dangerous,″ he said through tears. ``But we had to tell the people what is happening here.″

On Sunday, a Russian soldier was killed and three other people, including a Russian journalist, were wounded when a soldier unintentionally opened fire from an armored personnel carrier, the army said. Independent Television said the soldier was believed to be drunk.

Alyakina’s body was brought out of the city’s public bathhouse, where the bodies of those killed in the hostage episode were taken, for a short ceremony before being flown to her family in the city of Krasnodar, about 400 miles west of Budyonnovsk.

``There are many dead here in Budyonnovsk, and tens of thousands killed in Chechnya by the same bloody machine that in the end killed my Natasha,″ said Mrozek. ``This must be stopped.″

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