Doctors Without Borders Demands Putin Help Obtain Release of Kidnapped Aid Worker

Moscow, April 2, 2003 – Two hundred and thirty-three days after the kidnapping of Arjan Erkel, head of mission for Doctors Without Borders/Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) in Dagestan, MSF and over 300,00 people worldwide call on President Vladimir Putin of Russia do everything in his power to secure Arjan's release. Today, the first 300,000 signatures of a petition will be delivered to his office.

After almost eight months, MSF believes that local investigators have come up against insurmountable obstacles that have hampered their efforts to free Arjan. MSF concludes that the higher-level authorities responsible for this case are either unable or unwilling to solve it.

"It is totally unacceptable that all requests for meetings with the presidential administration have until now been rejected. The lack of political will to resolve this case has left us with no choice but to address our demands directly to President Putin. MSF along with over 300,000 people believe that he has the power to bring about the safe release of our colleague. We sincerely hope that he will use this power." said Rafael Vilasanjuan, MSF Secretary General.

Arjan Erkel is a humanitarian volunteer whose work consists entirely in helping alleviate the suffering of civilian populations. Unfortunately, his case is not an isolated one. For months, the humanitarian community has been the target of threats, violence and abductions in the Northern Caucasus.

Until Arjan is freed, MSF will continue to gather signatures for the petition to demand from the Russian authorities that they live up to their responsibilities and secure his release.