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Unidentified Men Attack Russian RFE/RL Correspondent

Andrei Afanasyev says he was severely beaten outside his apartment on the night of June 9. (file photo)

BLAGOVESHCHENSK, Russia -- A contributor to the programs of RFE/RL's Siberia.Realities project in the Russian Far East city of Blagoveshchensk says he has been attacked by three unidentified individuals.

Andrei Afanasyev told RFE/RL that he was attacked when he was entering his apartment block late at night on June 9.

Afanasyev said one of the attackers hit him with a metal bar, knocking him down, before all three assailants severely beat him for about 10 minutes.

"While they were beating me, one of the them told me, 'Write fewer reports about decent people.' They called me 'an American whore.' When they had to flee [after people appeared at the site] one of them said, 'Report to Domik,'" Afanasyev said, adding that Domik is the nickname of a local lawmaker from the ruling United Russia party, Andrei Domashenkin.

Afanasyev said Domashenkin is also the founder of the Chechnya-linked local martial arts club Akhmat.

The incident occurred in the Far Eastern Russian city of Blagoveshchensk.
The incident occurred in the Far Eastern Russian city of Blagoveshchensk.

Afanasyev is an independent journalist who reports about corruption among local authorities and law enforcement.

One of his latest investigative reports was about the Akhmat club, whose manager, Adam Magomadov, used to be the leader of the Chechen diaspora in the Far Eastern Amur region.

In April, Magomadov was arrested on an extortion charge.

Afanasyev's investigation revealed that Domashenkin had founded the martial arts club.

Commenting on the attack against Afanasyev, Domashenkin told RFE/RL on June 10 that "law enforcement is taking care of that case." He did not elaborate.

Afanasyev said that, since his current address is not his registered permanent address, it is very likely that he had been under surveillance prior to the attack.

The New York-based media-rights watchdog Committee to Project Journalists (CPJ) called for an immediate investigation into the attack.

"Russian authorities should immediately investigate the vicious attack on RFE/RL freelance journalist Andrei Afanasyev, and ensure that the perpetrators are found and held to account," said Gulnoza Said, CPJ's Europe and Central Asia program coordinator.

"Russian law enforcement should take attacks on journalists seriously, and do its job by protecting members of the press and making sure that they can work freely and without fear of retaliation."