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Famous "Kommersant" reporter brutally attacked outside his Moscow home

(RSF/IFEX) - Reporters Without Borders is horrified and appalled by a brutal attack on leading journalist Oleg Kashin outside his Moscow home on the night of 5 November 2010, in which he sustained fractures to the jaw, legs and fingers, and a concussion. Kashin, who works for the Moscow-based daily "Kommersant", underwent emergency surgery and was placed in an artificial coma.

"By saying 'the criminals must be found and punished,' President Medvedev seems to be taking the matter seriously," Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Jean-François Julliard said. "We hold him to his word and we urge the authorities to put all the necessary conditions in place for the police and judicial authorities to be able to work independently and get results."

Julliard added: "The culture of impunity has prevailed for too long. No crime of violence against journalists has been solved since the start of the past decade. A month ago, we marked the fourth anniversary of journalist Anna Politkovskaya's murder and we sadly noted that the investigation has gone nowhere. We hope the president's statement will be transformed into action.

"We are awaiting signs of a real political will on the part of the Russian authorities to defend and ensure respect for the independent press. They should begin by bringing those responsible for acts of violence against the press to justice. They should begin by respecting the rule of law. Kashin is clearly one of his generation's most brilliant and courageous journalists. Our thoughts are with him and his family."

A witness said the attack was premeditated. Two people waited for Kashin at the door of his apartment building. When he arrived, they beat him with a blunt object without taking his money, documents, iPhone or any other personal effects. Under interior minister Rashid Nurgalyev's control, the Moscow prosecutor's office opened an investigation into attempted murder.

"Kommersant" editor Mikhail Mikhailin said the attack was without doubt linked to Kashin's work as a journalist. Vladimir Markin, the spokesman of the prosecutor's office investigating commission, confirmed that this would be the working hypothesis.

One of "Kommersant"'s most influential journalists, Kashin has written many articles about politics and social issues, taking a particular interest in opposition movements such as Oborona and NBP and the pro-Kremlin youth movements Nashi and Molodaya Gvardia. He recently covered the dispute between environmentalists and officials who want to build a freeway through Khimki forest on the Moscow outskirts. An environmental activist was beaten with a baseball bat in Khimki last week.

Kashin was recently threatened by the pro-Kremlin youth movement Molodaya Gvardia, whose website called for him to be "punished" for interviewing one of the young men involved in ransacking the Khimki municipal administrative building in July. After the attack on Kashin, Molodaya Gvardia voiced support for him.

Mikhail Beketov, editor of the Khimki-based newspaper "Khimkinskaya Pravda" and outspoken critic of local municipal corruption and the irregularities surrounding the Khimki forest freeway project, was himself attacked and severely beaten outside his home in 2008. He lost a leg and the use of his hands and has irreversible neurological damage.

Russia is ranked 140th out of 178 countries in the 2010 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index.
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