Russian journalist 'nearly killed' in doorstep beating

Nationalist thugs suspected of brutal revenge attack on Kommersant reporter Oleg Kashin outside his Moscow home

A leading Russian journalist has been left with a fractured skull, a shattered jaw and a broken leg after two men beat him close to death on the doorstep of his Moscow home.

Oleg Kashin, 30, a reporter with the influential daily newspaper, Kommersant, was rushed to hospital after the unknown assailants struck him repeatedly with a blunt instrument.

The attack has further shocked Russia's beleaguered media and civil rights community, which has suffered numerous similar attacks in recent years.

President Dmitry Medvedev said the culprits must be "found and punished" but Kashin's colleagues expressed little hope the crime would be solved.

Kashin was known for his sharp writing about youth groups – some of them nationalist outfits sponsored by the Kremlin, such as Nashi. In August, Molodaya Gvardiya, the youth wing of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's United Russia party, called him a "journalist-traitor" and published his photograph with the caption: "Will be punished."

Kashin was attacked early yesterday as he returned home to an apartment block in the centre of the city. Witnesses had earlier seen two men waiting at the entrance to the block holding a bouquet of flowers. Police sources opened an attempted murder inquiry and were today examining CCTV footage of the attack.

Doctors said the journalist had been put into a coma to stabilise his injuries, and he was in a serious but not life-threatening condition.

Kommersant's editor, Mikhail Mikhailin, said the fact that several of the journalist's fingers had been crushed – the last joint of one was torn off – gave a clear indication the assault was revenge for Kashin's writing.

"It is completely obvious that the people who did this did not like what he was saying and what he was writing," he told the Ekho Moskvy radio station. "I don't know what specifically they did not like, but I firmly connect this with his professional activities."

Kashin had also reported on controversial plans to build a road through Khimki forest near Moscow. His beating came two days after Konstantin Fetisov, an environmental activist who has opposed the government road project, was set upon by men with a baseball bat. Two years ago the editor of a Khimki newspaper, Mikhail Beketov, had to have a leg and three fingers amputated after another attack.

Boris Nemtsov, one of Russia's most prominent opposition politicians, accused the country's leadership of stoking hatred.

He singled out Vladislav Surkov, the Kremlin ideologue, for particular blame. "It is exactly he who grooms young people at Seliger [Nashi's youth camp]," and under whose guidance "human rights activist, journalists and the opposition are presented as Nazi criminals", he said.


Tom Parfitt in Moscow

The GuardianTramp

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