PEN International condemns the brutal attacks on journalists Oleg Kashin and Anatoliy Adamchuk, which took place on November 6 and 8, 2010, respectively. Both men were hospitalized following the assaults, which human rights groups say were punishment beatings for their reporting on a contentious highway project in the Khimki Forest, near Moscow. PEN is also deeply concerned by the trial of journalist Mikhail Beketov, who also suffered a similar attack in 2008, following his reports on the Khimki Forest project. He is currently standing trial for the alleged defamation of a government official in the region. Press freedom organizations regard the charge as an effort to punish Beketov for his criticism of the local authorities. Assaults on journalists are frequent in Russia, and defamation laws are regularly used to silence critical journalism. PEN calls for a full and thorough investigation into the attacks on all three journalists, and for the slander charges against Beketov to be dropped.

Background Information

On November 6, 2010, Oleg Kashin, reporter for the Kommersant newspaper, was attacked by unknown assailants outside his home in Moscow. He is currently in a medically-induced coma. The 30-year-old journalist had been reporting on the controversial highway project in the Khimki Forest, and had received death threats from a pro-Kremlin youth group prior to the attack. During the attack, Kashin suffered a broken skull, jaw, fingers, and leg. He was hit up to 50 times with an iron bar. None of his belongings were taken. The attack was captured on a security camera.

President Dmitry Medvedev has condemned the attack on Kashin and demanded that the assailants be brought to justice. Russia’s Investigative Committee says that Kashin’s journalism was among leading motives for the attack.
On November 8, 2010, Anatoliy Adamchuk, reporter for the Zhukovskiye Vesti weekly, suffered a concussion and head injuries following an attack outside his newspaper’s offices in Zhukovsky. The assailants approached Adamchuk from behind, knocked him to the ground, and repeatedly struck and kicked him. He was hospitalized following the assault. Adamchuk had also covered protests against the building of the highway in Khimki.

Mikhail Beketov, journalist and former editor of the independent Khimkinskaya Pravda newspaper, is on trial for the alleged slandering of the Khimki Mayor, Vladimir Strelchenko. Beketov reported on and campaigned against the same highway project as both Kashin and Adamchuk, and was fiercely critical of Strelchenko, who initiated and sponsored the project. The defamation charges relate specifically to Beketov’s accusation that Strelchenko was behind a 2007 attack on the journalist’s property, in which Beketov’s car was set on fire and his dog killed. The first hearing took place on October 12, 2010.

Beketov is severely disabled as a result of a violent attack that took place in November 2008. At the time of the attack, he too was reporting on the Khimki highway project. The attackers broke his skull and legs, and smashed the fingers of both hands. Beketov spent three weeks in a coma and had to endure seven surgeries, including leg and finger amputations. Due to damage sustained to his throat, the 51-year-old journalist now has to relearn how to speak. While the investigation into the attack is suspended for lack of suspects, Strelchenko is suing the disabled Beketov for criminal defamation. He has continued to receive death threats by telephone.

Russian journalists work in an increasingly hostile environment, and live under constant threat of legal harassment and violence. Eight Russian reporters had been killed in 2010 and another 40 have been attacked. According to human rights groups, there have been 19 unsolved murders of journalists since 2000. Investigations into these matters are often superficial and frequently stagnate.

Write A Letter

  • Calling for a full and thorough investigation into the attacks on Oleg Kashin, Anatoliy Adamchuk and Mikhail Beketov;
  • Calling for the dismissal of the charges of slander against Mikhail Beketov;
  • Calling on the Russian authorities to unequivocally condemn all attacks on the independent press and human rights monitors.

Send Your Letter To

Mr. Dmitry Medvedev
President of the Russian Federation
Fax: +7 095 206 5173 / 230 2408
Email: [email protected]   

Mr. Chaika Yuri Yakovlevich
Prosecutor General of the Russian Federation
Ishaya Dmitrovka 1 a GSP e
Moscow 12599 3
Fax +7 095 292 88 48

Please also copy appeals to the diplomatic representative for Russia in your country if possible.