July 27, 2000
His Excellency Vladimir Putin
President of the Russian Federation
VIA FAX: 011-7-095-206-5173/206-6277
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) is deeply saddened by yesterday's killing of Sergey Novikov, owner of the independent radio station Vesna in the city of Smolensk.
Novikov, 36, was shot and killed in the stairwell of his apartment building at around 9 p.m. on July 26. The killer, who remains at large, shot him four times and then escaped through a back door.
Novikov's employees believe the murder was politically motivated, since the station has often criticized the government of Smolensk Province. They point to Novikov's participation in a July 23 television broadcast during which he and other local journalists discussed the alleged corruption of the provincial deputy governor.
Apparently, Novikov received death threats earlier this year after announcing his intent to run for the governorship of Smolensk Province. He then petitioned the local prosecutor's office for protection and permission to carry a weapon.
As a nonpartisan organization of journalists devoted to defending press freedom around the world, CPJ calls on you to ensure that Smolensk authorities carry out a thorough and complete investigation into the murder of Sergey Novikov, so that those responsible may be punished to the full extent of the law.
Thank you for your attention to this urgent matter. We await your reply. Sincerely,
Ann K. Cooper