December 17, 2018

Press Freedom

Russian Federation

OPC Calls for Arrests and Convictions in Attacks on Russian Journalists


H.E. Dmitri Medvedev

President

Russian Federation

Fax: (011.7.495) 206-6277/ 5173


H.E. Vladimir Putin

Prime Minister

Russian Federation

Fax:  (011.7.495) 206-4622, 205-4219


Your Excellencies:


As we write, Oleg Kashin, a prominent journalist with the daily, Kommersant, lies in a medically induced coma with a concussion, a broken jaw, and fractures of both legs — yet another Russian reporter savagely beaten by unknown assailants.


According to witnesses, two men were waiting for Kashin with a bouquet of flowers when he arrived at his apartment building. Kashin’s editor believes the attack was connected to his work, which includes covering youth political organizations and protest actions. Significantly, Kashin’s assailants took the trouble to break his fingers. Just two days later, a second journalist, Anatoliy Adamchuk, from the Zhukovskiye Vesti suburban Moscow weekly, was attacked the same way, suffering a concussion and head injuries.


“It is completely obvious that the people who did this did not like what he was saying and what he was writing,” said Kashin’s editor, Mikhail Mikhailin. “I think they wanted to kill him. They almost certainly followed him for a week, watched him at home, followed him to the editorial office, listened to his phone. Those two people who were waiting for him — that was the final stage of the operation, not its beginning.”


Among the people known to have been offended by Kashin’s work are members of Molodaya Gvardiya, a youth group associated with your United Russia party. According to The New York Times, after Kashin published an interview with a young anti-government activist, Molodaya Gvardiya’s Web site posted a column headlined “Journalist-Betrayers Should Be Punished.” The column said Kommersant’s reporters were “genuine traitors.” It was illustrated with a photograph of Kashin, stamped with the words, “will be punished.” After Kashin was beaten, the organization removed the photo and replaced it with a brief notice saying the attack was “a barbaric crime,” calling for punishment of the perpetrators, and hoping for Kashin’s speedy recovery.


Perhaps significantly, Kashin and Adamchuk had recently been covering the same story, the controversial plan to build a highway through a forest near the town of Khimki. Kashin had interviewed a member of an activist youth organization that attacked a government building in Khimki. Adamchuk had reported the arrests of children who were protesting the cutting down of trees for the highway. And that is not the end of violence connected with this proposed highway. Konstantin Fetisov, an environmental activist working to stop the road, was held by police and questioned last week about his activities. Shortly after he was released, he was attacked in Khimki by assailants who fractured his skull.


Your Excellencies, we applaud President Medvedev’s recent decision to suspend construction of the highway pending more hearings. We are also gratified to learn that he has ordered Russia’s general prosecutor and interior minister to supervise the investigation of the beating of Kashin. The facts above may suggest some questions for the investigators to ask.


We also hope that Aleksandr Bastrykin, chairman of the Investigative Committee, will add this to the 19 cases of murdered journalists that he recently agreed to pursue as “a matter of honor for us to solve.” As we wrote you after that announcement, it will take more than promises to quell the world’s outrage at the impunity that has followed the killings of at least 52 journalists in your country since 1992, by the conservative count of our colleagues at the Committee to Protect Journalists.


If you want to restore Russia’s reputation, investigations must be followed by arrests and convictions.


Thank you for your attention. We would appreciate a reply.


Respectfully yours,

Larry Martz
Kevin McDermott

Co-chairmen, Freedom of the Press Committee

cc:


Sergey V. Lavrov

Foreign Minister

Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Moscow  121200, Russian Federation

Fax:(011.7.495) 244-3448


Ambassador Vitaly Churkin

Permanent Representative

Permanent Mission of the Russian Federation to the United Nations

136 East 67th Street

New York, NY 10021

Fax:  (212) 628-0252


Aleksey K. Simonov

President

Glasnost Defense Foundation

4 Zubovskiy Blvd., # 432

Moscow 119021, Russia

Fax:  (011.7.495) 637-4947


Andrew McChesney

Editor-in-Chief

The Moscow Times

Ul. Polkovaya, 3, build. 1, Moscow 127018, Russia

E-mail: mcchesney@imedia.ru


H.E. Sergey I. Kislyak

Ambassador of Russia to the U.S.A.

Embassy of the Russian Federation

2650 Wisconsin Avenue, NW

Washington, DC 20007

Fax:  (202) 298-5735


Dmitri Peskov

First Deputy Spokesman of the President of the Russian Federation

c/o  Embassy of the Russian Federation

2650 Wisconsin Avenue, NW

Washington, DC  20007

Fax:  (202) 298-5735


H.E. John Beyrle

U.S. Ambassador to Russia

Embassy of the United States of America

8 Bolshoy Devyatinskiy Pereulok Moscow  121099, Russia

Fax:  (011.7.495) 728-5090


Andrey Vitalyevich Vasilyev

Editor-in-Chief

Kommersant Daily

4 Vrubelya Street

Moscow, Russia

E-mail: kommersant@kommersant.ru