December 17, 2018

Press Freedom

Russian Federation

Putin Must Investigate Threat to Editor

H.E. Vladimir Putin
President
The Kremlin
Moscow
Russian Federation
Fax: (011.7.495) 206.6277/ 5173

Your Excellency:

It is gratifying, of course, that chief investigator, Aleksandr I. Bastrykin, has offered an apology to Novaya Gazeta and its deputy editor, Sergei Sokolov, after editor-in-chief, Dmitry A. Muratov, accused Bastrykin of threatening to kill Sokolov.  But the matter can not be left at that ambiguous point.

Bastrykin’s first reaction to Muratov’s charge was to deny it, telling the newspaper, Izvestia, that Muratov’s open letter to him was “outright lies,” “stupidities and innuendo.”  Hours later, when he convened prominent journalists at the Interfax news agency and issued his apology, Bastrykin never acknowledged what he was apologizing for or that Muratov’s account of the incident was true.  As Muratov told it, Bastrykin’s security guards drove Sokolov to a forest outside Moscow, where Bastrykin threatened to kill him and joked that he personally would lead the investigation into Sokolov’s death.

Muratov has said he is satisfied with Bastrykin’s apology, though it is not clear whether Sokolov will return to the country he left in fear of his life.  But defenders of press freedom and honest government can not be as tolerant.

Your Excellency, if any of this actually happened, it was a crime, which no vague apology can erase.  It would also have been a gross dereliction of duty by the highest investigative official in Russia, a man who was your schoolmate and personal friend.  He surely can not remain in this position after such an incident.  We call on you again to launch a full investigation of the case, suspend Aleksandr Bastrykin from his office, and prosecute him impartially if the facts support Muratov’s accusation.

Respectfully yours,
Larry Martz
Jeremy Main
Freedom of the Press Committee

cc:

H.E. Dmitri Medvedev
Prime Minister
Government Offices
2 Krasnopresnenskaya Naberezhnaya
Moscow
Russian Federation
Fax:  (011.7.495) 206.4622, 205.4219

H.E. Sergey V. Lavrov
Foreign Minister
Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Moscow 121200
Russian Federation

H.E. Sergey I. Kislyak
Ambassador of Russia to the U.S.A.
Embassy of the Russian Federation
2650 Wisconsin Avenue, NW
Washington, DC  20007
Fax:  (202) 298.5735

Ambassador Vitaly Churkin
Permanent Representative
Permanent Mission of the Russian Federation to the United Nations
136 East 67th Street
New York, NY  10021
Fax: (212) 628.0252

H.E. John Beyrle
U.S. Ambassador to Russia
Embassy of the United States of America
8 Bolshoy Devyatinskiy
Pereulok
Moscow  121099
Russia
Fax:  (011.7.495) 728.5090

Andrey Vitalyevich Vasilyev
Editor-in-Chief
Kommersant Daily
4 Vrubelya Street
Moscow, Russia
kommersant@kommersant.ru

Aleksey K. Simonov
President
Glasnost Defense Foundation
4 Zubovskiy Boulevard, # 432
Moscow  119021
Russia
Fax: (011.7.495) 637.4947

Andrew McChesney
Editor-in-Chief
The Moscow Times
Ul. Polkovaya, 3, build. 1
Moscow  127018
Russia
mcchesney@imedia.ru

Maria Otero
Under Secretary of State for Democracy and Global Affairs
U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street, NW
Washington, D.C.  20520