President Dmitry Medvedev pledged on Monday to punish those responsible for the vicious beating of Kommersant reporter Oleg Kashin even if they are senior officials — just as two more journalists reported assaults.
Police have named no suspects in the early Saturday attack on Kashin, but they promised on Monday to investigate a leak that provided the media with gruesome videos of the attack filmed by surveillance cameras.
A 90-second video released by Lifenews.ru late Sunday shows Kashin attacked near his home on Pyatnitskaya Ulitsa by two men, one of whom was holding a bouquet of flowers. [Editor's caution: The video shows the two assailants bludgeoning Kashin.]
The flowers were apparently used to hide a metal bar that one attacker used to beat Kashin after knocking him down, while the other assailant held the helpless reporter. The video gives no clear view of the assailants' faces.
Moscow police seniors are “indignant over the video's release” and have ordered to find out how the media got hold of it, a police official told Interfax.
Despite the inquiry, another video from the scene was released by Lifenews.ru on Monday showing Kashin crawling on his knees after the attack until a yardkeeper comes to his aid.
Kashin, 30, was attacked near his rented apartment in downtown Moscow. His jaw, leg and fingers were broken, and he remained hospitalized in a drug-induced coma Monday.
Kashin's wife, Yevgenia Milova, wrote on her Facebook page late Sunday that he had undergone three-hour head surgery. “Now nothing is threatening his brain,” she wrote.
She also wrote that she had been allowed to visit Kashin in the hospital along with his father, who came to Moscow from his native Kaliningrad shortly before the attack. Kashin and Milova have no children.
Kashin's father urged the authorities to quickly find the attackers.
"It's a potent challenge to the authorities. They must find them … those scumbags," Vladimir Kashin told Reuters outside the hospital.
"By doing this a 10-minute walk from the Kremlin, they are not just throwing down a challenge to the media. They are throwing down a challenge to everyone," he said.
The Investigative Committee said Monday that more than 30 people have been questioned in connection with the attack and investigators have searched Kashin's office and apartment for clues. Kommersant editor-in-chief Mikhail Mikhailin was among those questioned, Interfax said.
“Priority has been given to the version that [the attack is linked to] his professional activity as a journalist and his personal position that Kashin expressed in his blog,” investigators said in a statement Monday, without elaborating.
Kashin's supporters continued to stage one-person pickets — the only form of public protests not requiring permission from the authorities — near Moscow police headquarters on the downtown Ulitsa Petrovka. They began the picket Saturday, demanding the arrest of the assailants and organizers of the attack.
Several students from Moscow State University's journalism department hung a banner reading, “Who beat up Kashin?” out of a university building window facing the Kremlin on Monday.
The banner was swiftly removed by security guards, Interfax reported, citing a university spokesperson.
A group of students calling themselves the “Other Journalistic Department” took responsibility for the protest in a statement e-mailed to The Moscow Times. They did not identify themselves.
Medvedev criticized the attack at a meeting with journalists working for the government's Rossiiskaya Gazeta.
“Whoever contributed to the crime will be punished regardless of his position or place in society and regardless of his other merits, if there are any,” Medvedev said in an apparent reference to speculation that the attack was ordered by some of the numerous officials Kashin attacked in his publications.
A number of human rights activists linked the incident to the campaign around the Khimki forest, slated for partial destruction to make way for a government-backed highway. Kashin criticized local authorities over their handling of the issue in his recent reports.
The Khimki city administration denied involvement Monday, Interfax said.
Another Khimki forest defender, environmental activist Konstantin Fetisov, remains hospitalized in serious condition after unidentified men beat him up with baseball bats last Wednesday.
Meanwhile, more violence against journalists was reported Monday.
In the Moscow region town of Zhukovsky, a reporter with the independent local Zhukovskiye Vesti newspaper, Anatoly Adamchuk, was attacked by two unknown men late Sunday night near the newspaper's office, his colleagues said.
Adamchuk, who was hospitalized with head injuries, said the attack might be linked to his professional activity because the assailants repeated “Zhukovskiye Vesti” while beating him, his colleagues said.
Adamchuk recently wrote about the razing of a nearby forest ahead of the MAKS air show slated for next year.
In Saratov, the editor-in-chief of the local newspaper Saratovsky Reportyor, Sergei Mikhailov, was attacked by two unknown men, Interfax reported, citing local police.
The incident took place Friday, but Mikhailov only reported it Monday. He said he escaped serious injuries because the assailants were scared off by a passer-by.
Mikhailov said the attackers did not try to rob him, which could mean that the incident was linked to his professional activity.
At least 30 attacks against journalists, including eight murders, have been registered this year, according to the Glasnost Defense Foundation.
Nineteen murders of journalists in Russia remain unsolved since 2000, according to the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists.