Petersburg Journalist Beaten to Death

ST. PETERSBURG — A newspaper editor who had helped research critical articles about the St. Petersburg banking system was severely beaten and died in a hospital this week, and his editor alleged he had been killed over the articles the paper had published.
Anatoly Levin-Utkin, deputy editor of the three-week-old Yuridichesky Peterburg Segodnya newspaper, was attacked at his apartment building over the weekend, and died Monday in a hospital. His unidentified assailants took a briefcase that his editor said was filled with documents relating to his banking stories, and also emptied his pockets.
“We have come to the conclusion that the murder of Anatoly [Levin-Utkin] is related to his professional activities,” Alexei Domnin, the editor of Yuridichesky Peterburg Segodnya, said at a news conference.
Domnin said Levin-Utkin’s briefcase contained photo equipment, a roll of film, 1,000 rubles (about $140) and documents the journalist intended to cite in the third article in a series of daring exposйs on St. Petersburg banks, to be published in the paper’s third edition.
Domnin said Levin-Utkin’s murder could be connected with stories the paper had run about the State Customs Committee, Bank Rossiisky Kredit and St. Petersburg native Vladimir Putin, who was recently appointed head of the Federal Security Service, the KGB’s main successor agency.
“People from the northwestern customs department and from Bank Rossiisky Kredit called us and demanded that we reveal the sources and the authors of the articles,” Domnin said. He also said that “Putin’s friends,” whom he refused to name, met with him after the second issue of the paper came out. Domnin said “the meeting was of an obviously political nature.”
In a telephone interview Thursday, Nikolai Vragov of the northwestern customs department said that his colleagues had never seen the second issue of the paper nor telephoned the editor.
“Maybe [Domnin] has simply invented everything,” Vragov said.
Bank Rossiisky Kredit officials were unavailable for comment Thursday.
However, Kommersant Daily quoted officials there as saying that “we just wanted to talk to the author” of the article.
Oleg Panfilov of the Glasnost Defense Foundation in Moscow agreed with Domnin’s assessment of the fatal attack.
“Judging by the fact that the newspaper publishes serious information … we have a right to say that this murder is related to [Levin-Utkin’s work at the newspaper],” Panfilov said. “Unfortunately, the criminals investigation in such cases usually is never completed.”
Meanwhile, a criminal case opened by the Vyborgsky district police precinct No. 59 against Levin-Utkin’s attackers last Saturday seemed to have evaporated by Thursday. Police at the precinct said Thursday they had passed the case to the Vyborgsky district prosecutor’s office Wednesday, but an official at the prosecutor’s office said it had not received the case.
Police had no comment on Domnin’s allegations that his deputy had been killed for his journalism.