Russian reporter 'staged his beating': police

10th November 2010, Comments 0 comments

A Russian reporter who claimed to have been badly beaten after writing about a controversial road project staged the attack and may be charged for filing a false police report, officials said Wednesday.

But the reporter, Anatoly Adamchuk, vehemently denied this version of events and his newspaper said the accusations had been expected after he was harassed by police in hospital.

Meanwhile, another Moscow region journalist, Mikhail Beketov, who was left with brain damage and amputations after a brutal attack in 2008, was found guilty by a court of slandering a municipal official.

Attention on the security of reporters in Russia has increased dramatically since the weekend beating of Kommersant business daily correspondent Oleg Kashin, who remains in a coma induced by doctors.

Adamchuk, who writes for the Zhukovskie Vesti in the town of Zhukovsky of southeastern Moscow region, reported being beaten early Monday, following a series of stories about a forest that officials want torn down in favour of a road.

But in a bizarre twist, the local branch of the interior ministry said that "the attack was initiated and orchestrated by the accusing party."

The ministry's spokesman for the Moscow region, Yevgeny Gildeyev, told Moscow Echo radio that Adamchuk had paid 1,000 rubles (about 33 dollars) to instigate the attack.

The spokesman said Adamchuk paid one man to have another "fulfill the contract" and make it look like the reporter had been badly beaten about the head.

But Adamchuk furiously denied the claims. "This never happened. I refuse to comment on these despicable claims," he told the Interfax news agency.

Adamchuk said he was harassed Tuesday night by two policemen who barged into his hospital room after 10:00 pm.

"They accused me of self-mutilation and that I had double-crossed everyone by my act of 'self-immolation'," Adamchuk told colleague Sergei Grammatin, according to the recording posted on Zhukovskie Vesti website.

Adamchuk said the police visit was followed by people with video cameras who tried to film him and asked provocative questions.

"We expected such a turn of events, because yesterday policemen already voiced this version," Grammatin told AFP Wednesday. "What happened is unprecedented, to make a victim into an attacker," he said.

Adamchuk has filed complaints about the night visit to the local and regional prosecutor offices and is consulting lawyers, Grammatin said.

The beating occurred amid the furore created by the weekend attack on Kashin, who covered a different highway project through a forest near the Moscow region town of Khimki.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has expressed confidence that Kashin's attackers will be found.

But the head of the council that advises Medvedev on human rights, Mikhail Fedotov, expressed doubts Wednesday it would be easy to find the masterminds.

"This is a difficult crime to solve," he told reporters. "To establish the masterminds we need to understand why this crime took place and who profited."

Like Kashin, Beketov had also been been covering the controversy over the plan to build a road through Khimki forest.

Beketov, 52, who is bound to a wheelchair after the 2008 attack and can barely communicate, was convicted of slander by a Khimki court on Wednesday for accusing the town mayor of plotting to blow up his car.

The court decision is "a spit in the face of society," in view of the latest new attacks, said Yevgenia Chirikova, who has coordinated the Khimki forest movement after Beketov's incapacitation.

Another Khimki activist, Konstantin Fetisov, is still in a coma after being savagely beaten with baseball bats last week, Chirikova told AFP, adding that "a smear campaign" has kicked off against Fetisov on local television.

Chirikova has said that all three attacks are related and has proposed to roll them into one criminal case.

Dozens of journalists have been beaten and even killed in Russia since the collapse of the Soviet Union, most notably campaigning writer Anna Politkovskaya who was gunned down in her apartment building in 2006.

© 2010 AFP

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