US urges Russia to act over beating of journalist

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The United States Monday condemned a savage assault on a prominent Russian reporter and urged the authorities to punish the perpetrators as it criticized the Kremlin's record on press freedom.

"A free and independent press is central to a vibrant and well-functioning democracy," said State Department spokesman Philip Crowley.

"Journalists around the world must feel free to do their jobs without fear of intimidation or physical violence."

Crowley called for justice for Kommersant business daily journalist Oleg Kashin, placed in an induced coma after a savage beating on Saturday near his Moscow home.

"As the 2009 humanitarian rights report noted, eight journalists, many of whom reported, you know, critically on the government, were killed over the last year in Russia," Crowley said.

"With one exception, the government has failed to identify, arrest or prosecute any suspects."

A grainy 90-second webclip, which swept through the Russian Internet and even made it on state TV news, showed two assailants converge on Kashin and beat him with what appeared to be a lead pipe.

The attack has generated an unprecedented wave of solidarity between the state and opposition media.

President Dmitry Medvedev took the unusual step of responding to the assault immediately and promised to find and punish those behind it.

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.

© 2010 AFP

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