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Russia1er April 2009

Local newspaper reporter dies two days after beating, human rights activist attacked outside Moscow home

Sergey Protazanov, a reporter for Grajdanskoye Soglasye, a local newspaper based in the north Moscow suburb of Khimki, died at his home on 30 March, two days after being attacked and beaten. He had been covering irregularities in the 1 March local elections in which Khimki mayor Victor Strelchenko was reelected.

His editor, Anatoly Yurov, and a senior official in a Russian environmental protection agency, Oleg Mitvol, say they believed Protazanov’s death was a result of the injuries he sustained in the Saturday night attack. He died at home after being examined hospital.

The police nonetheless deny that his death was linked to the attack and attribute it to the consumption of a toxic substance.

Lev Ponomariov, the head of the human rights NGO “For Human Rights,” was meanwhile attacked by three men outside his Moscow home on the evening of 31 March.

“There seems to be no end to the appalling series of attacks on journalists, especially local journalists, and human rights activists,” Reporters Without Borders said. “The authorities need to actively intervene instead of just issuing statements.”

The press freedom organisation added : “Journalists and human rights activists must not only enjoy the same right to safety as other citizens but should receive special protection because of the particularly useful nature of their contribution to Russian society.”

Mikhail Beketov, the editor of the Khimki-based local newspaper Khimkinskaya Pravda, spent several weeks in a coma after being savagely beaten outside his home in November, at a time when he was investigating the mayor’s business activities and the reasons for his support for a motorway project that will threaten a forest outside Khimki.

Other journalists have since been attacked while Novaya Gazeta reporter Anastasia Baburova and human rights lawyer Stanislav Markelov were gunned down in central Moscow in January.

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