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German Police Arrest Suspect In Rape And Killing Of Bulgarian TV Journalist


German police have arrested a suspect in a crime that has shocked Bulgaria. Viktoria Marinova lived in a quiet city along the Danube River where violent crime is rare. She hosted a TV show that investigated official corruption. As Joanna Kakissis reports, some people are wondering if that is why Marinova was raped and killed.

JOANNA KAKISSIS, BYLINE: The city of Ruse in northeastern Bulgaria is sometimes called Little Vienna, and I see why as I walk around here. Its downtown is lined with neo-Baroque buildings and fountains. And in this very peaceful setting, there is a statue covered with flowers and candles. It's a memorial to the hometown anchor Viktoria Marinova.

RUMYANA DOBREVA: (Speaking Bulgarian).

KAKISSIS: Retired waitress Rumyana Dobreva leaves a bouquet of sunflowers for Marinova. She watched Marinova's debut program on how Bulgaria had misused European Union funds. She says she's crushed that a young, dynamic journalist has been silenced.

SVILEN MAXIMOV: She was a fighter. She would not be satisfied just to investigate it. She wanted change.

KAKISSIS: That's Svilen Maximov, Marinova's ex-husband. He owns the TV station where she worked. His eyes are red. Even after their divorce, they remained friends. They have a young daughter together.

MAXIMOV: In 10 days, she's going to be 7, and Viktoria was preparing for her birthday, but that's it.

KAKISSIS: Maximov says journalists don't have an easy time in Bulgaria, which the watchdog Transparency International ranks last in the EU in terms of press freedom.

MAXIMOV: The journalists in Bulgaria have been pressed so much by businessmen, by authorities throughout the years. This didn't happen overnight.

KAKISSIS: The EU is now pressing Bulgaria to probe whether Marinova was targeted because she hosted an investigative reporting show. But Maximov says he believes the attack was random.

MAXIMOV: It was a bad luck. It could've happened to anybody.

KAKISSIS: Bulgarian authorities say they plan to charge a 21-year-old man named Severin Krasimirov. He was arrested in Germany.


KAKISSIS: Krasimirov lived with Ruse's Roma, an underprivileged group who are often discriminated against in Bulgaria. Men listening to traditional music point us to a narrow alley in this neighborhood where he lived with an aunt in a hut made of scavenged material. A woman who gives her name is Stanka explains that Krasimirov was known as Seledin and had only lived here a few months.

STANKA: (Speaking Bulgarian).

KAKISSIS: "He wasn't a Roma Christian like us," she says. "He was a Turk. He has nothing to do with us." She says Roma are always blamed for crime. Three boys ride their bikes past the wooded spot along the Danube River where Viktoria Marinova's body was found. One of the boys, 16-year-old Ivan Andreev, remembers that she disappeared in the middle of the day. He says he's not scared about being here but that women should be.

IVAN ANDREEV: Nobody would kill a man in this time of the day.

KAKISSIS: He says it's much more dangerous being a woman than being a journalist. For NPR News, I'm Joanna Kakissis in Ruse, Bulgaria.


Joanna Kakissis is a foreign correspondent based in Kyiv, Ukraine, where she reports poignant stories of a conflict that has upended millions of lives, affected global energy and food supplies and pitted NATO against Russia.
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