New York, August 9, 2004—Saying that Russian authorities “have repeatedly disregarded pertinent evidence and witnesses” in the slayings of two editors of a Togliatti newspaper, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) called on President Vladimir Putin today to “devote the full resources of your office” to bring the true killers to justice.

In a letter to the Russian leader, CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper described a “years-long pattern of deadly, unchecked violence” against journalists that includes 11 contract-style murders since Putin took office in 2000.

Nowhere is the climate of lawlessness more apparent than in the southern Russian city of Togliatti. Two successive editors-in-chief of Tolyattinskoye Obozreniye—Valery Ivanov and Aleksei Sidorov—were slain after the newspaper exposed controversial business deals linked to organized crime and government corruption.

One man stands accused of Sidorov’s murder, but a detailed inquiry by CPJ has revealed numerous irregularities in prosecutors’ handling of the case. CPJ staff, who traveled to Togliatti in June, also found a complete lack progress in the Ivanov case.

CPJ called on Putin to ensure thorough criminal investigations into the slayings; full and transparent legal proceedings; and regular and comprehensive communication by authorities with the families of the victims.

“Devoting your government’s attention and resources to solving these cases would signal to the world that your administration is moving toward respect for the rule of law and the fundamental precepts of democracy,” Cooper said.

Click here to read the full text of the letter.