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Russia17 November 2008

Shock and anger about violent attack on newspaper editor

Reporters Without Borders is “shocked and angry” about a violent assault on opposition journalist Mikhail Beketov, the editor of a newspaper based in Khimki, a town on the northwestern outskirts of Moscow. He has been in a critical condition ever since the attack on 13 November.

“Beketov has lost a leg and is still in a coma, but that is not all - threatening calls were also made to the hospital where he was taken,” Reporters Without Borders said. “Violence against journalists continues to be very much in the news in Russia, what with the start today of the trial of four people accused of the 2006 murder of Novaya Gazeta reporter Anna Politkovskaya.”

The press freedom organisation added : “It is impossible not to get angry when you think about these murders that too often remain unpunished. Only last August, the owner of an Ingush news website, Magomed Yevloyev, was shot dead just after being arrested. This cycle of violence must stop.”

Beketov, the editor of Khimkinskaya Pravda and an outspoken critic of the local authorities, was attacked and beaten outside his home in Starbeevo, a village near Khimki. He was near death when he was found the next morning and taken to a Khimki hospital.

Sergei Mitrokhin, the head of the Yabloko party, said Beketov was transferred yesterday to the Sklifosovski Institute in Moscow at the request of relatives, who had received phone calls at the hospital in which threats of further violence were made against him.

Oleg Mitvol, the deputy head of the federal agency for the control of natural resources, Rosprirodnadzor, said Beketov is currently in need of a blood donation.

Beketov is a prominent opponent of plans for a motorway from Moscow to St. Petersburg because it would mean cutting a swathe through Khimki Forest. Mitvol and Igor Chestin, the head of the Russian branch of the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), both think the assault was prompted by his public defence of the forest.

Beketov’s car was set on fire in May 2007. Local prosecutors brought a criminal libel case against him in February of this year.

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