A top media official of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe has expressed shock at the recent murders of two Dagestani journalists.

The OSCE representative on freedom of the media, Miklos Haraszti, called on Russia Thursday to carry out vigorous and transparent investigations into the deaths.

Firefighters found the body of Moscow-based state television reporter Ilyas Shurpayev in his Moscow apartment last Friday.  He had been stabbed and strangled.

On the same day, unknown assailants gunned down Gadzi Abashilov, the head of the state radio and television of Dagestan, in the republic's capital, Makhachkala.

In a letter, Haraszti urged Russian authorities to establish with certainty whether the two cases are linked to the journalists' coverage of the North Caucasus region.

Russian authorities have said the deaths of the two Dagestani journalists are not connected.

Dagestan is a neighbor of Chechnya, where Russia fought two wars with separatists in recent decades.  Although the major fighting has ended, attacks on government targets are still frequent in the North Caucasus region.

Haraszti commended Moscow for prompt opening of criminal cases into both murders.  He also praised Russia's chief prosecutor, Yuri Chaika, for taking personal charge of the Abashilov case.