Journalists for U.S. News Group Attacked in Southern Russia

Denis Abramov / Vedomosti

Two journalists reporting on protests by farmers in Russia’s Krasnodar region have been beaten and robbed by a group of masked men.

Sergei Khazov-Cassia and Andrei Kostyanov from U.S. state-funded news organization Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) were ambushed by men wielding cans of pepper spray as they left their hotel in the town of Kropotkin.

The attackers escaped on foot after taking a laptop, recording equipment, and the journalists' personal belongings. Kostyanov was later treated for a broken rib.

Khazov-Cassia said that the attack took place just hours after local police officers had visited them at the hotel.

Police later recovered some of the stolen items, including the camera, Khazov-Cassia said.

"This thuggish attack on our reporters, who were acting in their professional capacity and covering an event, is unacceptable," RFE/RL President Thomas Kent said. "We demand a full investigation, with a focus on the role of local police in the incident, to ensure that this is not another crime against journalists in Russia that is met with impunity."

Local farmers in Russia's Krasnodar region accuse large agricultural holdings of talking part in illegal land seizures.

Authorities have allowed a number of protests to take place amid low-level harassment, including a "tractor march" on Moscow in August 2016. But the protests which the journalists had been sent to cover ultimately did not take place, Khazov-Cassia said.

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