MOSCOW -- Russian journalist Oleg Kashin is declining the chance to meet face to face with the regional governor he believes tried to kill him.
Addressing recent accusations that he ordered an attack five years ago that left Kashin fighting for his life, Pskov Governor Andrei Turchak said his conscience was "absolutely clean."
"The region has changed a lot in five years," Turchak said in comments published by the Pskov Kurier on November 2. "Let him come and we'll have the chance to look each other in the eyes, talk about everything."
Kashin responded to the offer that very evening. Describing the invitation as "absolutely brazen," Kashin bluntly told Govorit Moskva radio that "I don't think I should have to meet in an informal setting with the man who tried to kill me."
While working as a special correspondent for Kommersant, Kashin was brutally beaten by two men wielding metal rods outside his home late on November 6, 2010. The high-profile attack, which left Kashin with two broken legs, mangled fingers, a damaged skull, and multiple jaw fractures, highlighted the risks faced by journalists in Russia.
At the time, then-President Dmitry Medvedev promised to take the case under his "personal control," but little progress was evident until Kashin unexpectedly declared the case "solved" on September 7.
Kashin revealed the names of three men charged in the attack, and the name of the man he claimed had hired them to carry out the attack. All of the men worked at a factory with ties to Turchak.
Later the same month, the wife of one of the alleged assailants, Yelena Vesyolova, told Kommersant that Turchak ordered her husband to beat Kashin "so that he could no longer write." Vesyolova also said she possessed an audio recording of a meeting between her husband, Turchak, and others, that could prove her claims.
Turchak denied in his interview with Pskov Kurier that he had ever been to the restaurant where the meeting was alleged to have taken place. He defended his decision to remain silent about the allegations against him, which he said were part of a smear campaign against him.
"I don't see the need to throw fuel in the form of commentary into this information campaign and to play the supporting role in someone else's media script," he said.
His invitation for Kashin to meet with him is a standing offer, Turchak added.
Russian opposition and journalist activists have on numerous occasions picketed law enforcement agencies, calling for Turchak to be questioned.
Turchak said in the interview that he had already been questioned by investigators.
Despite their magnitude, the allegations against Turchak have only caused small ripples in Russian politics.
President Vladimir Putin appears to have brushed off the matter, saying through his spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, that "this is a matter for investigators."
Attacks against journalists regularly go unsolved in Russia. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, 32 journalists have been "murdered with impunity" since 1992.