Just two days after a security camera caught two men beating journalist Oleg Kashin unconscious on a Moscow street, a second reporter who wrote about a controversial road proposed for a beloved Moscow forest has suffered a concussion at the hands of unknown assailants.
Kashin is in a medically induced coma in a Moscow hospital after a weekend assault that left him with a severed finger, a broken leg and fractured jaws. Video from a closed circuit camera of two men holding Kashin down and beating him with an iron bar that had been hidden in a bouquet of flowers has appeared on a Russian web site and state television. The attack lasted a minute and a half.
“I hope that he can work again,” Kashin’s father Vladimir told ABC News. “I hope that he can survive.”
“I don’t know why exactly he was attacked,” said fellow journalist Yvgenia Albats, an investigative reporter and editor-in-chief of the magazine New Times. “I know for sure that he was attacked because of his work.”
Kashin has reported on many controversial topics, including political youth groups, but speculation about the cause for the assault centers on Kashin’s coverage of the Khimki road project, a proposed multi-billion dollar highway through the heart of a “green belt” birch forest on the city’s outskirts. Logging for the road began in July, but after fierce public protest construction was temporarily suspended by Russian president Dmitry Medvedev. Kashin, who works for the prominent business newspaper Kommersant, had written about a July protest against the road, conducting an interview with a blogger who said he had led an attack on a government building in Khimki.
Backers of the project stand to lose a huge investment if the highway is scrapped. The project is supported by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, and after one of Kashin’s articles on Khimki, the pro-Kremlin youth group Young Guard posted a piece online with the headline “Journalist Betrayers Must Be Punished” as well as a picture of Kashin with the label “Will Be Punished.” Young Guard has denied involvement in the attack on Kashin and condemned it.
The limits of freedom of expression should be attacking other people’s lifes. You can’t call for “punishments” of “journalist betrayers”, because they are investigating something you don’t like anyone to investigate, and then, when something like that, has happened, take the unhappy mask and condemn it. I’m sure they are really happy after this: even his father doesn’t know if the journalist will survive. So it’s probable that he won’t be able to work either.