Top Russian journalist beaten in Moscow: paper

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Unknown individuals on Saturday severely beat up a leading journalist for the respected Russian daily newspaper Kommersant, forcing doctors to put him in an artificial coma, the paper said.

Kommersant said in a statement that two attackers beat its journalist Oleg Kashin with a hard object outside his apartment block in central Moscow in the early hours of Saturday.

"Kashin was seriously wounded and hospitalised. For the next few days, he will be in an artificial coma," it said.

The journalist received fractures to his lower and upper jaw and concussion, it said. Both his shins were broken and his fingers and skull were also wounded.

"It's clear that the people who did this did not like what he says and what he writes," Kommersant's chief editor Mikhail Mikhailin told Moscow Echo radio.

"What happened to him is linked to his professional activities," he added.

Moscow police confirmed the attack and police were sent to the scene to begin investigations, a spokesman told the RIA Novosti news agency.

Kashin, 30, specialised in writing about demonstrations, opposition meetings and the activities of youth groups for Kommersant and also covered the activities of President Dmitry Medvedev.

In recent months, he had been closely following demonstrations against the building of a highway through Khimki forest outside Moscow, which Medvedev has now put on hold pending a review, in a rare nod to popular pressure.

Journalists and activists following the Khimki highway controversy have in the past been targeted by attackers.

Konstantin Fetisov, head of the local branch of the opposition Right Cause party for Khimki, was beaten after attending a protest Thursday against the dumping of household waste in the area.

Local newspaper editor Mikhail Beketov, who had been highly critical of the local Khimki administration, was assaulted in November 2008 and forced to have a leg and several fingers amputated.

Numerous 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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