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Russia: Bloggers Discuss Attack on Journalist Oleg Kashin

The brutal attack on Oleg Kashin, a prominent Russian blogger and journalist, became topic #1 on RuNet several hours after it had occurred. Almost every more or less famous blogger wrote something about the case [RUS]. Kashin is still in a medically induced coma; his legs, jaws and fingers are broken, a part of one of the fingers on his hand has been amputated.

Earlier today, bloggers gathered for a peaceful demonstration in front of 38 Petrovka Street, the place of the Moscow police headquarters, demanding a thorough investigation of the attack.

The main questions that the bloggers are asking now are: “Who did this?” and “Will the attackers and their patrons be punished?” While there are at least three possible answers to the first question, there's no answer for the second one, as there have been so many unsolved crimes against journalists that no one in the blogosphere believes the attack on Kashin will ever be solved.

As Kashin's story is unfolding, the bloggers are trying to create pressure and publicity while suggesting their own versions. Because of his journalistic work, Kashin had many enemies and was receiving threats on a regular basis. A few weeks ago, he mentioned in a text that he tried not to disclose his home address.

Below is the analysis of the main versions of the crime:

Personal conflict with Governor Turchak

In August 2010, Oleg Kashin clashed with Pskov governor Andrei Turchak in an online debate, calling him “crappy Turchak” (later it became a short-term political meme), after which Turchak demanded [RUS] an apology within 24 hours (full story here [RUS]).

Sergey Smirnov commented:

Олег мне НЕОДНОКРАТНО говорил, что уже после поста ему звонили и угрожали от “сраного”. Говорили, мол, сейчас уляжется, мы тебя достанем. Подчеркиваю, НЕОДНОКРАТНО.

Oleg REPEATEDLY told me that after the post he received calls and threats on behalf of the “crappy” one. They were telling him that when everything calmed down, ‘we'd get to you’. I'm stressing this: it happened MORE THAN ONCE.

Conflict with Molodaya Gvardia

Molodaya Gvardia, the Russian pro-Kremlin youth movement, included Kashin in the black list of “journalists-traitors” (after yesterday's assault, the initial document was altered and the anti-Kashin text was deleted; however, a screenshot can be found here, and a printed version is here). The article had a photoshopped picture of Kashin with these words stamped over it in blue: “Will be punished.Molodaya Gvardia accused Kashin of aiding extremists and called him a “fascist journalist.”

Famous Russian journalist Pavel Sheremet supported this version:

Так убивают молодые садисты. Они уже вошли в раж, они натоптались на портретах своих противников, их больное воображение рисует картинки российского Тяньаньмыня. У них чешутся руки. Война Кашина с губернатором Псковской области Турчаком, бывшим руководителем радикальной молодежной организации – серьезный повод кому-то предъявить обвинение. Кашину угрожали, он в ответ огрызался, ему решили показать, кто тут хозяин жизни. Могли нанять бандитов – в стране хватает криминальных кадров. Но скорее всего отработали какие-то активисты. Слишком старательно, слишком тщательно мучили человека.И не ждут бандиты в букетом цветов у входа во двор, обычно сидят в машине напротив, курят, из-за угла посматривают. Не их почерк.

This is how young sadists kill. They've already flown into a rage, they've spent enough time stomping their opponents’ portraits, in their sick imagination they see a Russian Tiananmen. They're itching to do something. Kashin's war with the governor of Pskov region Turchak, who's also a former head of a radical youth organization – this is a serious reason to push an accusation. They threatened Kashin, he talked back, so they decided to show him who's the master. They could hire criminals – there are enough of them in the country. But, most probably, this was done by some of the activists. They tortured the person in a way that was too diligent, too thorough. And criminals won't be waiting for him with a bunch of flowers at the entrance to the courtyard – they usually sit in the car in front of the house, smoking, looking up from around the corner. It's not their style.

The Khimki Forest controversy

It appears, however, that the most probable is the Khimki Forest version. Recently, Oleg Kashin published an interview [RUS] with one of the defenders of the Khimki Forest, who participated in the assault on the Khimki city administration. After the interview was published, the police approached Kashin, demanding that he disclose the e-mail of the anonymous interviewee. Kashin declined.

The reason many bloggers connect the attack on Kashin to the Khimki Forest case is the cruel style of the earlier assaults against some of the activists. The Khimki Forest case has a long blood trail, including murders of journalists and lawyers.

Nearly two years ago, in September 2008, Mikhail Beketov, the editor of Khimkinskaya Pravda newspaper, was attacked under similar circumstances (attackers waited for him near his house). The injuries resulted in losing one leg and mobility. Brain injuries made Beketov disabled. Moreover, the Khimki city administration accused speechless and legless Beketov of libel against Khimki mayor Vladimir Strelchenko (see photos of the court hearing here). Beketov's lawyer, Stanislav Markelov, was killed on January 19, 2010 (although the main version was that he was killed by the neo-Nazis).

The assault on Kashin happened right after a similar attack on Konstantin Fetisov, another defender of the Khimki Forest. He was severely beaten on Nov. 4, and, as Oleg Kashin, is in medically induced coma now.

Blogger no-nine noted that the assault on Beketov also included broken legs, jaws and fingers. As other bloggers noted, these were symbolic violence messages: “Don't walk, don't talk, don't write.”

Maxim Kononenko, previously a pro-Kremlin blogger, also supports the Khimki Forest version. He wrote that he felt there was an unstoppable power that was killing or crippling more and more journalists in Russia:

Мы имеем дело с какой-то совершенно потусторонней, инфернальной силой. И что самое смешное – эта сила сама проводит проверки себя, себя расследует и сама берет себя под контроль. То есть, она там бурлит, извивается и идет пузырями, а мы стоим и смотрим, пока из нее не вылезет щупальце и не утащит одного из нас туда, к себе, вовнутрь. Как в повести Стивена Кинга «Тума».

Щупальца всё ближе, а мы по-прежнему стоим, загипнотизированные, и смотрим. С обреченным таким интересом смотрим – кто ИЗ НАС будет следующим?

We are dealing with an absolutely supernatural, infernal power. And, what's most funny, this power is executing checks on itself, is investigating itself, and is taking itself under control. It is boiling up, twisting, blowing bubbles, and we're standing there and watching when a tentacle comes out of it and drags us inside [the creature]. As in Stephen King's [horror novella “The Mist”].

The tentacles are closer and closer, and we're still standing, hypnotized, and watching. Watching with this desperate interest – which ONE OF US will be the next?

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