Levin-Utkin, deputy editor of the weekly newspaper Yuridichesky Peterburg Segodnya, was beaten unconscious on August 21 in the doorway of his apartment and robbed of his briefcase, which contained information for the next installment in an investigative series on rivalries between local financial and political figures. Cash and personal valuables were also taken.
The journalist suffered severe brain trauma and died on August 24 without ever having regained consciousness. The newspaper’s editor said in an August 25 news conference that he believed the murder was connected to the series of investigative stories on the customs and secret services published in the first two issues of the 3-week-old newspaper, for which Levin-Utkin had done research and reporting. The editor said he had received phone calls demanding the names of those who worked on the series but had refused to divulge the information. Levin-Utkin had just finished collecting documents and photos for the third installment of the series on the day he was attacked. In a letter to President Boris Yeltsin, CPJ condemned the fatal beating and decried the intimidation of journalists and the climate of fear in Russia that stifles media freedom.