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Russian newspaper's headquarters suffer bomb attacks

Reporters Without Borders condemns an attack on the headquarters of one of the leading Russian dailies, Moskovski Komsomolets (MK), in which two unidentified youths ignited two gasoline bombs in the lobby at midday on 22 October, creating a lot of thick black smoke that spread throughout the building.

“Fortunately no one was badly hurt in this attack but the consequences could have been grave,” Reporters Without Borders said. “It is all the more serious for being the second this year. Such attacks on freedom of information cannot be tolerated. We hope a full and impartial investigation will identify the perpetrators and instigators of these criminal acts.”

The two youths who carried out the 22 October attack entered the lobby one after the other at around 12:20 p.m., while a news conference on the municipal elections was being held in the building. After setting off one gasoline bomb inside the lobby, they threw the second as they fled.

Security guards put out the fire, which was limited to an area of two square metres, but the thick black smoke it gave off spread through the building as far as the seventh floor and staff were evacuated. Five employees requested first aid for smoke inhalation but no one had to be hospitalized.

The Moscow-based daily was previously targeted on 8 June, when a group of masked demonstrators tried to force their way into the building and threw smoke devices. They were chanting Ukrainian nationalist slogans and were brandishing signs that said “Ukrainians are not merchandise” and “Gusev in prison” (a reference to the newspaper's editor, Pavel Gusev.)

The attack followed articles in other media accusing Gusev of involvement in networks that procure Ukrainian prostitutes, in what Gusev said was a smear campaign orchestrated by parliamentary members of the ruling United Russia party. In its 16 March issue, the newspaper had published a scathing editorial about United Russia's parliamentarians headlined “Political prostitution has changed sex.”

No one has claimed responsibility for the 22 October attack but the newspaper says it is convinced that it is linked to this dispute and is openly blaming United Russia's parliamentarians. The head of United Russia's press service, Aleksandr Kurennoy, has threatened to bring a defamation suit against Gusev for blaming him by name.

As well as being Moskovski Komsomolets' editor, Gusev is a prominent personality in Russia and is a member of the consultative councils of several government institutions.

Russia is ranked 148th out of 179 countries in the 2013 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index.

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