CPJ urges thorough investigation of Domnikov killing

July 24, 2000

His Excellency Vladimir Putin
President of the Russian Federation

VIA FAX: 011-7-095-206-5173/206-6277

Your Excellency:

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) is gravely disturbed by the killing of journalist Igor Domnikov, a reporter and special-projects editor at the twice-weekly Moscow paper Novaya Gazeta, who died after suffering a violent assault in Moscow on the evening of May 12. We reiterate our demand for a thorough investigation of this case, as requested in our May 22 letter to Your Excellency.

Domnikov, 42, was attacked in the entryway of his apartment building in southeastern Moscow, according to numerous local sources. The unidentified assailant hit Domnikov repeatedly on the head with a heavy object, presumably a hammer, and left him lying unconscious in a pool of blood, where he was found by a neighbor.

The journalist was taken to a local hospital with injuries to the skull and brain. After surgery and two months in a coma, Domnikov died on July 16 in the Burdenko Neurosurgery Institute in central Moscow

“The investigators of the case are positive that the attack on Domnikov was connected either to his professional activity or that of the newspaper,” Novaya Gazeta deputy editor Segrey Sokolov told CPJ. While the precise motive for the attack remains unknown, Moscow police do not rule out the theory that the assailant mistook Domnikov, who covers social and cultural issues, for a Novaya Gazeta investigative reporter named Oleg Sultanov, who lives in the same building. Sultanov claims to have received threats from the Federal Security Service in January for his reporting on corruption in the Russian oil industry.

According to Sokolov and other sources, the Interior Ministry has been actively investigating this brutal attack (the editor declined to disclose the details of the inquiry until the case is closed, citing a confidentiality agreement with local police). Sokolov said the investigation is expected to conclude by the end of the summer.

As a nonpartisan organization of journalists devoted to defending press freedom around the world, CPJ calls on Your Excellency to ensure that Russian authorities continue investigating the attack on Domnikov, so that those responsible may be found and punished to the full extent of the law.

Thank you for your attention to these urgent matters. We await your reply.

Ann K. Cooper
Executive Director