April 21, 2024

Press Freedom

Russian Federation

Russia May 8, 2006

H.E. Vladimir Putin
The Kremlin
Russian Federation
Fax: (011.7.095) 206-6277/ 5173

Your Excellency:

In the brief three weeks since our last letter, three more flagrant abuses of press freedom in Russia have come to our attention.

The most shameful was the arrest and two-month sentence to custody of Viktor Shmakov, editor-in-chief of Provintsialniye Vesti . According to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), Shmakov is being held while the FSB and Interior Ministry conduct a joint investigation into two articles published in a special edition of Provintsialniye Vesti in April. The articles criticized corruption and human rights abuses in Bashkortostan and called for the resignation of President Murtaza Rakhimov, who has ruled the republic since 1993. We remind Your Excellency that Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights safeguards the right of every individual to seek, receive and impart information and opinions without interference. Thus, Shmakov was fully within his rights no matter what he wrote, short of inciting mayhem. To quote Ann Cooper, executive director of CPJ, “Locking up an editor for two months while security agents decide whether political criticism constitutes grounds for criminal prosecution is outrageous. Viktor Shmakov should be released immediately and all proceedings against him dropped.” We agree. Shmakov is 63 years old and in ill health. We join Reporters Without Borders in calling on Your Excellency to condemn his arrest and demand his release.

We are also dismayed that, according to the news agency, Regnum, prosecutors in the western city of Kaliningrad have filed criminal libel charges against Arseny Makhlov, publisher of the weekly, Dvornik . The newspaper had criticized a local prosecutor who allegedly accepted a bribe to close a fraud case against a local official. This prosecution is part of a pattern of Russian use of criminal libel charges to silence criticism; it is also part of a campaign against critical media in the Kaliningrad region in advance of parliamentary elections. According to CPJ, some publishing houses refused to print newspapers, and several journalists were dismissed for criticizing local officials. None of this would be tolerable in the democracy that you have assured us you want to establish in Russia .

Finally, we urge you to order a full investigation into the severe beating of Marina Litvinovich, the chief editor of the Internet site, Pravda Beslana, and coordinator of the opposition movement, “Joint Civil Front.” Litvinovich told the Eho Moskvi radio station that unidentified individuals attacked her from behind and hit her several times on the head, causing her to lose consciousness. Her purse, cell phone, money, and laptop were not taken. Two of her teeth were knocked out and she suffered injuries to her face and ribs in the attack. She believes that the attack was related to her role in the investigation of a series of terrorist attacks in Russian cities.

Your Excellency, to repeat our recent message, it is still not too late to reverse course and demonstrate that you accept the principles of press freedom in an open society. We urge you to do so.


Thank you for your attention. We would appreciate a reply.
Larry Martz
Kevin McDermott
Co-chairmen, Freedom of the Press Committee



Mikhail Yefimovich Fradkov

Prime Minister

Government Offices

2 Krasnopresnenskaya Naberezhnaya


Russian Federation

Fax: (011.7.095) 206-4622


Sergey Viktorovich Lavrov

Foreign Minister

Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Moscow 121200

Russian Federation


Yuriy Viktorovich Ushakov

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 Andrey Ivanovich Denisov

Permanent Representative

Permanent Mission of the Russian Federation to the United Nations

136 East 67 th Street

New York , NY 10021

Fax: (212) 628-0252


Mr. Dmitri Peskov

First Deputy Spokesman of the President of the Russian Federation

c/o Embassy of the Russian Federation

2650 Wisconsin Avenue, NW

Washington , DC 20007

Fax: (202) 298-5735


Alexander R. Vershbow

U.S. Ambassador to Russia

Embassy of the United States of America

8 Bolshoy Devyatinskiy Pereulok

Moscow 121099


Fax: (011.7.095) 728-5090


Aleksey Kirillovich Simonov


Glasnost Defense Foundation

4 Zubovskiy Blvd., # 432

Moscow 119021


Fax: (011.7.095) 201-4947

E-mail: simonov@gdf.ru


Lynn Berry


The Moscow Times

16 Vyborgskaya Street , building 4

Moscow 125212

Fax: (011.7. 095) 937-3393

E-mail: l.berry@imedia.ru


Aleksander Vitalyevich Stukalin


Kommersant Daily

4 Vrubelya Street



Fax: (011.7.095) 943-9728

E-mail: kommersant@kommersant.ru


Tatyana Petrovna Koshkaryova


Nezavisimaya Gazeta

13 Myasnitskaya Street , building.3



Fax: (011.7. 095) 981-5434

E-mail: office@ng.ru


Vladimir Alekseyevich Borodin



18 Tverskaya Street , building 1

Moscow 127994


Fax: (011.7.095) 514-0223

E-mail: alekseeva@izvestia.ru


Pavel Nikolayevich Gusev


Moskovskiy Komsomolets

7 Ulitsa 1905 Goda

Moscow 123995


Fax: (011.7.095) 259-4639

E-mail: berestovenko@mk.ru


Robert Munro


The St.Petersburg Times

4 Isakiyevskaya square

St.Petersburg 190000


Tel/fax: (011.7.812) 325-6080

E-mail: munro@sptimes.ru


Tatyana Gennadyevna Lysova

Editor-in-Chief, Vedomosti

16 Vyborgskaya Street

Moscow 125212, Russia

Fax: (011.7.095) 956-0716

E-mail: vedomosti@imedia.ru


Dmitriy Andreyevich Muratov


Novaya Gazeta

3 Potapovskiy pereulok

Moscow 101990


Fax: (011.7.095) 923-6888

E-mail: gazeta@novayagazeta.ru