Russian leader vows to punish reporter's assailants

8th November 2010, Comments 0 comments

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev responded to unprecedented media pressure on Monday by vowing to punish those behind the assault on a reporter -- no matter their potential rank or title.

Medvedev's unusual pronouncement came as a grainy 90-second clip of what appeared to be the beating of Kommersant business daily reporter Oleg Kashin swept through the Russian Internet and even made it on state TV news.

As the savage attack on Kashin generated an unprecedented wave of solidarity among both state and opposition media in Russia, another journalist was reported to have been beaten up in the Moscow region district of Zhukovsky.

Medvedev took the unusual step of immediately not only responding to the assault on Kashin but even reacting to speculation that this was another incident for investigators to sweep under the rug.

"Whoever is involved in this crime will be punished, regardless of his position, place in society or accomplishments," Medvedev said in comments broadcast on state television.

The Russian leader -- seen as more more sympathetic to media and other rights concerns than his predecessor Vladimir Putin -- admitted the case had overwhelming political undertones and would not be treated as a common crime.

"I have seen it written in the press that they (the people behind the crime) will not be found. They will be found. There is no doubt," he added.

He added that crimes against reporters must be treated with extra care by society and not be grouped with other crimes.

"I did this (commented on this case and not others) on purpose, because reporters are people who find themselves in an area of heightened risk," he said.

The events united Russian reporters of all political stripes.

A group of media leaders told Medvedev in their open letter that more than a journalist's safety was at issue as these crimes pile up.

"The rights of reporters to fulfill their obligation in a normal fashion and not worry about their lives -- this is the right of society to speak and be heard."

The letter said eight Russian reporters had been killed this year already and another 40 had come under attack.

Doctors had put Kashin in an induced coma and refused Monday to make any forecasts about his health.

"His problems are serious, so we are not going to make any forecasts for now," chief hospital doctor Dmitry Semyonov was quoted as saying by the state-run RIA Novosti news agency.

The Internet video showed two assailants surrounding a man as he approached a gate to a residential building in the night hours and knocking him to the ground.

One then held him by the upper body while the other beat him with what television reports said was a lead pipe.

The European Union's executive arm called the attack "brutal" and "obviously unacceptable."

The Russian state investigative committee for its part linked the beating to either Kashin's writing or the "civic position" he adopted on the various Internet blogs.

His colleagues suggested that politics was involved in either case.

The business daily wrote Monday that Kashin was recently made into a formal enemy by a pro-Kremlin youth group linked to the ruling United Russia party.

The Molodaya Gvardia (The Young Guards) organization on August 11 reportedly posted a short-list of reporters it planned to "punish."

The list ran under a photograph of Kashin -- whom it identified along with the others as "media saboteurs."

Two more journalists meanwhile were reported beaten on Monday: one a reporter with the Zhukovskiye Vesti suburban Moscow weekly and another the editor of the Volga region's Saratovsky Reporter.

Zhukovskiye Vesti's Anatoly Adamchuk was struck twice in the head with a blunt object and was recuperating at home.

One of his colleagues told Interfax that the only item stolen from Adamchuk was his computer memory card.

Neither money nor other valuables were stolen from Saratovsky Reporter's Sergei Mikhailov. The state-run RIA Novosti news agency said local police suspected that politics was at play.

© 2010 AFP

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