April 23, 2024

Press Freedom

Russian Federation

Russian Investigator Reputedly Threatens Reporter

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

Your Excellency:

If true — and we see no reason to doubt the account in Novaya Gazeta — it is outrageous that Aleksandr I. Bastrykin, Russia’s chief federal investigator, drove the newspaper’s deputy editor to a remote forest and threatened to kill him. The credibility of your country’s enforcement of the law will be demolished if you do not immediately suspend Bastrykin from his duties, launch a full investigation of the story and begin a criminal prosecution if it is substantiated.

Our information is that after Dmitry A. Muratov, Novaya Gazeta’s editor in chief, published his account of Bastrykin’s threat against Sergei Sokolov, the newspaper’s head of investigative reporting, Sokolov, understandably chose to leave the country for his own safety. More than a dozen journalists picketed in protest outside the offices of Bastrykin’s Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation. So far, Bastrykin, his office and your own spokesman have not condescended to comment on this astonishing accusation.

Bastrykin was reportedly angry over an article in Novaya Gazeta about the murders of 12 people in the city of Kuschevskaya, including the charge that a local businessman paid a bribe to obtain a light sentence for one of the suspects. Bastrykin included Sokolov in a group of reporters he invited on a trip to the North Caucasus, and reportedly exchanged words with him on this tour. After they returned to Moscow, according to Muratov, Bastrykin’s, security guards drove Sokolov to a forest outside of Moscow, where Bastrykin threatened to kill him.

Your Excellency, the charges speak for themselves. The Overseas Press Club of America, an independent organization that has defended press freedom around the globe for more than 70 years, believes that if they are not convincingly refuted, you have no alternative but to fire and prosecute Aleksandr Bastrykin.

Respectfully yours,
Kevin McDermott
Larry Martz
Freedom of the Press Committee


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
Moscow 121099
Fax: (011.7.495) 728.5090

Andrey Vitalyevich Vasilyev
Kommersant Daily
4 Vrubelya Street
Moscow, Russia

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

Andrew McChesney
The Moscow Times
Ul. Polkovaya, 3, build. 1
Moscow 127018

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