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Hikmatullo Saifullozoda (right) pictured here in 2008
DUSHANBE -- A leading figure in Tajikistan's Islamic opposition party has been hospitalized after being beaten up on his way to work, RFE/RL's Tajik Service reports.

Hikmatullo Saifullozoda, a member of the Islamic Renaissance Party's (IRP) political council and editor in chief of its newspaper, "Najot," was attacked this morning on his way to the newspaper's office in Dushanbe.

Saifullozoda, an outspoken critic of the government, said he was set upon by two assailants after a third person approached him and attempted to distract him.

He suffered a blow to the skull and severe bruising around his eyes and mouth. He is being treated in a Dushanbe hospital.

The ruling People's Democratic Party described the attack as a "wrongful act."

Hikmatullo Saifullozoda suffered a blow to the skull and severe bruising around his eyes and mouth.
Usmon Soleh, head of the party's public relations department, told RFE/RL that the incident was unfortunate, adding that "threatening and using force against someone" is not a solution to issues.

Soleh said law enforcement agencies would deal with the incident.

The IRP leadership said it had called an urgent meeting to discuss the attack, adding that it hoped Saifullozoda's assailants would be brought to justice.

Party deputy head Saidumar Husaini informed the interior minister by phone about the attack, but the party said it had not yet officially asked the authorities to investigate.

Another IRP deputy head, Mukhammadali Haiit, told RFE/RL that the attack was an attempt on Saifullozoda's life. He said Saifullozoda's neighbors had spoken of having seen people following him in recent days.

Saifullozoda is also a political analyst with the Dushanbe think tank Dialog.

Read more in Tajik here
Ella Polyakova
ST. PETERSBURG -- Another young soldier has deserted an infamous Russian military unit near St. Petersburg after allegedly being abused, RFE/RL's Russian Service reports.

Private Artyom Brish, who joined the army last summer, said he fled the unit located in the town of Kamenka after he was beaten by several older soldiers and officers.

Ella Polyakova, chairwoman of the Soldiers' Mothers of St. Petersburg nongovernmental organization, told RFE/RL that Brish should have legally not been drafted into the army as his parents are deaf mutes and need personal care. She said there are documents proving that Brish himself is seriously ill and incapable of performing his military duties.

Brish has asked the Soldiers' Mothers group for help in his case.

Polyakova said military draft boards in Russia try to enroll all young men -- despite their health problems -- in order to meet army enlistment quotas. In Russia, every male between 18-27 is required to serve one year in the army.

The Kamenka military unit gained notoriety in the last two years after numerous cases emerged of soldiers being beaten, hazed, and tortured.

In October, President Dmitry Medvedev fired the commander at Kamenka and two other military officials after numerous reports of abuse of recruits.

Eight senior officers had been sacked from their posts at the end of 2009, after at least two soldiers committed suicide and numerous others deserted the base, claiming they were hazed and even tortured while serving at Kamenka.

Read more in Russian here

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"Watchdog" is a blog with a singular mission -- to monitor the latest developments concerning human rights, civil society, and press freedom. We'll pay particular attention to reports concerning countries in RFE/RL's broadcast region.

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