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A demonstrator outside Moscow police headquarters on November 7 demands an end to violence against journalists.
A grainy surveillance camera video has surfaced showing two men savagely beating political correspondent Oleg Kashin in the early morning hours of November 6 in the courtyard outside his Moscow apartment building.

The 30-year-old reporter for the daily "Kommersant," who's also a prominent blogger, suffered broken legs, a damaged skull, and fractured fingers. Doctors say he remains in an induced coma but in stable condition.

President Dmitry Medvedev vowed that the authorities would punish Kashin's attackers, "regardless of position, place in society, or accomplishments."

His comments came after speculation about the attack spread rapidly over the Russian Internet, prompting solidarity among journalists and bloggers angry at the lack of press freedoms and threats to journalists' safety in a country media-rights groups rank as one of the most dangerous in the world for reporters.

Few Expect Attackers To Be Found

The online journal openspace.ru posted a petition on November 6 asking Medvedev to find the attackers and take steps to protect journalists in the future.

Oleg Kashin covered the demonstrations against the building of a highway through Khmki forest.
But website editor Maria Stepanova says she's unsure whether the appeal will have any effect.

"The hope that Medvedev is going to do something is slim," she says. "But journalists should have the opportunity to call a spade a spade, even if it causes problems."

Attacks on journalists are increasingly frequent in Russia, and assailants are rarely brought to justice. Medvedev acknowledged the public skepticism in his statement, saying: "I have seen it written in the press that they will not be found. They will be found. There is no doubt."

But analysts agree there are few reasons to believe the authorities' track record will be any different this time. Similar pledges in the past have rarely produced results.

"As of now, the dismal experience [we have] shows that in the 200 incidents of attacks on journalists and activists in the past 10 or 15 years, almost never -- with two or three exceptions -- has an investigation been able to find or punish the perpetrators," Nikolai Petrov of Moscow's Carnegie Center says, "and not once has the person who ordered the attack been named.

Who Hated Kashin More?

Amid the public cynicism over the likelihood Kashin's attackers will be found, his colleagues have been offering their own versions. "Kommersant" editor Mikhail Mikhailin says three main possible motives have emerged.

"The first is Oleg's conflict with [Pskov Oblast Governor Andrei] Turchak, which has gained some publicity," Mikhailin says. "The second possible motive is his coverage of the Khimki forest [highway-construction controversy]. The third one is his investigation of extremist organizations."

Kashin has had a long-standing conflict with Turchak, whom he's referred to on his blog by a nickname containing an expletive. He's also compared Turchak to Chechnya's authoritarian President Ramzan Kadyrov. Turchak's son has demanded an apology, and called Kashin "not a journalist, but an informational burp."

Journalists have also pointed to nationalist and pro-Kremlin youth groups such as Nashi and the Young Guard, about whom Kashin has published critical reports. The Young Guard, the youth wing of the ruling United Russia party, recently posted a picture of Kashin on its website with the caption: "Should Be Punished."

Carnegie's Petrov says the pro-Kremlin youth groups were angered by Kashin's reporting on the well-known controversy over the protected Khimki forest outside Moscow, where locals and environmentalists have demonstrated against official plans to build a highway.

The site of the planned highway through Khimki forest outside Moscow.
Noting the reference to Kashin on the Youth Guard website, he says this is "something that is done with the complete knowledge of the authorities and could only happen in the run up to an election."

Russia is due to hold parliamentary elections in December 2011 and a presidential election in 2012.

Khimki Fallout

Kashin has written numerous sympathetic articles about the environmental movement In Defense Of Khimki Forest, which clashed with the authorities over the summer.

Kashin's colleagues point out that other journalists and activists associated with the conflict have also been assaulted. Two days before Kashin's attack, environmental activist Konstantin Fetisov was severely beaten outside his Khimki home.

Mikhail Beketov, the former editor of a local paper that closely covered the Khimki movement, was also brutally beaten in 2008.

Attacks against journalists have continued since Kashin's beating. Two more journalists were assaulted on November 8 in incidents that do not appear to be connected to Kashin's case.

Anatoly Adamchuk, a reporter for a local paper in the town of Zhukovsky outside Moscow, was beaten by unknown assailants the same day the editor of a paper in the Volga region was also attacked.

written by Ashley Cleek, with contributions from RFE/RL's Russian Service
"Kommersant" correspondent Oleg Kashin is in a doctor-induced coma in a Moscow hospital after being savagely beaten near his apartment. (file photo)
A leading Russian journalist has been severely injured in a brutal attack that his editor believes was linked to his work.

President Dmitry Medvedev has called for a thorough investigation into the beating of 30-year-old Oleg Kashin, who remains hospitalized in a coma.

The attack left the well-known reporter with two broken legs, mangled fingers, a damaged skull, and multiple jaw fractures.

Blood on the asphalt at Paytnitskaya Street 28 where Kashin was beaten
Kashin, a political journalist with Russia's best-respected news daily "Kommersant," was attacked near his Moscow apartment by two men who witnesses say had waited for him with a bunch of flowers. The Russian website lifenews.ru has posted CCTV footage that it says shows the savage nature of the attack.

Doctors have put the 30-year-old reporter into an induced coma and placed him in intensive care. Kashin's wife says a second operation on her husband, performed on November 7, appears to have gone well.

"Kommersant" editor Mikhail Mikhailin said he was shocked by the violence of the attack.

"There are witnesses. One of his neighbors heard what happened. She said Oleg was beaten not with bare hands but with heavy objects," Mikhailin said. "I think it could have been metal objects or baseball bats because it's impossible to break someone's legs with bare hands."

Indeed, the video posted by lifenews.ru shows two attackers using a club and other heavy objects during the assault.

Within hours of the attack, Medvedev ordered the prosecutor-general and the interior minister to "take special control of the investigation."

"The criminals must be found and punished," Medvedev said on Twitter.

A criminal case was opened for attempted murder.

Protests were held on November 7 in Moscow and St. Petersburg, calling on Russian authorities to bring to justice those responsible for the attack.

In Moscow, a demonstration was held outside the central police headquarters on Petrovka Street. Hundreds of journalists, students, activists, and others have signed an appeal to Medvedev, posted on the Russian culture website openspace.ru. Citing the recents deaths and beatings of reporters, it says "journalists are an indicator of the state of society."

In St. Petersburg, activists from Yabloko and Solidarnost and others marched down Nevsky Prospect in support of Kashin.

High-Profile Murders

Rights groups have criticized Russian authorities for failing to solve a string of high-profile murders of journalists, including the 2006 slaying of Kremlin critic Anna Politkovskaya.

People protest outside the central police headquarters on Petrovka Street on November 7, demanding a thorough investigation of the assault.
Russia is one of the most dangerous places in the world for reporters, with 19 unsolved murders of journalists in Russia since 2000, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.

The motive for the attack on Kashin remains unclear, but his colleagues believe it was retaliation for his reporting.

An official of Russia's journalists' union, Mikhail Fedotov, who is also the chairman of the Presidential Human Rights Council, said there was "no question" but that the attack was tied to Kashin's professional activities.

Mikhailin said it could be linked to Kashin's coverage of banned opposition groups.

"Hooliganism and robbery are excluded because Oleg had expensive things with him, including an iPad, a mobile phone, money, and documents, which the attackers did not steal," Mikhailin said. "This was linked exclusively to his professional activities. Oleg carried out various investigations, including into the activities of informal youth organizations."

The editor did not offer more details.

Kashin also covered a sustained opposition movement against the construction of a highway between Moscow and St. Petersburg that would cut through the Khimki forest on the edge of the capital.

His beating comes just two days after Khimki activist Konstantin Fetisov was attacked near his home. He remains hospitalized in severe condition.

Yevgenia Chirikova, the driving force behind the protest against the proposed highway, says the two attacks could be linked.

"I don't exclude it, because this project involves corruption. And where there's corruption, there are criminal interests," she said.

A local newspaper editor who actively campaigned against the highway also fell victim to a vicious attack in 2008 that left him severely brain damaged. One of his legs also had to be amputated.

with reporting from RFE/RL's Russian Service

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