MSF demands that Putin help release volunteer

Moscow/Geneva - Two hundred and thirty-three days after the kidnapping of Arjan Erkel, head of mission of Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) in Dagestan, MSF and over 300,00 people worldwide call on President Vladimir Putin 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," said Rafael Vilasanjuan, MSF Secretary General.

"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."

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 (on and to demand from the Russian authorities that they live up to their responsibilities and secure his release.

MEDIA INTEREST ONLY: For more information, please contact:

In Moscow: Mark Walsh 7-095-776 3644
In Geneva: Pere Joan Pons 41 79 701 99 89
In Amsterdam: Ruud Huurman 31-629 50 43 62