No Justice for Battered Russian Journalist

CCTV footage of the assault on Oleg Kashin [WARNING, GRAPHIC]

Three years ago, on November 6, 2010, Russian journalist Oleg Kashin was severely beaten with an iron rod[Global Voices report] outside his Moscow home by two unknown men. He was rushed to hospital with numerous broken bones and skull fractures. Kashin remained in a critical condition for over a week, underwent several operations and ended up losing a portion of a finger. The event caused outrage among Russia's tightly-knit clique of liberal journalists and activists, who picketed Moscow's police headquarters for days and sent an open letter to then-president Dmitriy Medvedev. The authorities immediately opened a criminal investigation into attempted murder, under the personal supervision of Russia's Prosecutor General. Three years later no one has been charged with the crime.

The motive behind Kashin's beating has never been concretely established. His reporting has earned him many enemies, including the pro-Kremlin youth movements NASHI and the United Russia Young Guards. The Young Guards, in particular, had posted a photograph of Kashin with the words “Will be punished” stamped across it on its website before the beating. The image was promptly removed in the aftermath. Some friends of Kashin [ru] suspected that the motive could be his reporting on the illegal construction of a highway in the protected Khimki forest outside Moscow. Kashin, for his part, believes the attack was personally ordered by NASHI leader, Vasily Yakemenko and carried out by members of Moscow's football hooligan movement with links to the organization. 

On this third anniversary of his beating, Kashin took the opportunity to reexamine the case. In an interview [ru] with Vera Kichanova in the online news portal Slon, as well as in a column [ru] in the web publication Colta, Kashin said that the Investigative Committee and the FSB started deliberately sabotaging the investigation after President Putin's reelection:

Открытым текстом они объяснили мне (хотя я и сам догадывался), что масштабное и качественное расследование моего дела было обусловлено прежде всего вмешательством президента Медведева […] И чекисты сказали мне, что после ухода Медведева никто мое дело расследовать не будет, потому что (и это тоже дословная цитата) «в деле замешаны влиятельные люди».

They openly told me (although I had my own suspicions), that the large scale and high quality investigation of my case was predicated on the involvement of President Medvedev [who personally promised Kashin to find the assailants] […] The “secret police” told me that after Medvedev leaves noone will investigate my case, because (and I quote) “there are influential people mixed up in it.”

Masha Drokova, a journalist (and former Nashi member) takes part in a one person picket in support of Oleg Kashin.

Masha Drokova, a journalist (former Nashi member) takes part in an individual picket demanding justice for Oleg Kashin. CC 3.0 Inmediahk

Many twitter users, including opposition activist (and one time Kashin friend) Ilya Yashin, dragged up a tweet from Medvedev's official account, which was posted in the wake of Kashin's beating, in which the President pledged to order “the office of the Prosecutor General and the Interior Ministry to take the case of the attempted murder of the journalist Kashin under special control. The criminals must be found and punished.” Yashin posted a screenshot of Medvedev's tweet and sarcastically made reference to a meeting between Medvedev and Kashin:

Прошло ровно три года после нападения на Олега Кашина. Три года как Медведев обещал “оторвать голову преступникам”.

— Илья Яшин (@IlyaYashin) November 6, 2013

It's three years since the attack on Oleg Kashin. Three years since Medvedev promised to “wring the necks of the criminals.”

Alexey Navalny also referenced Medvedev's tweet and used the lack of progress in Kashin's case to highlight what he sees as the incompetence and waste of Russia's bloated security apparatus. Citing a Bloomberg graphic that showed Russia had more police per capita than any other country in the world, Navalny sardonically wrote [ru]:

Никто не найден и не наказал. Сурков и Якеменко со своими бандитами, которых и искать-то не надо, до сих пор даже не допрошены. Зато “правоохранители” съедают немыслимо огромную часть нашего бюджета, а по их количеству на душу населения Россию не обгонит никто

No one has been found or punished. Surkov and Yakemenko and their bandits, who you don't even have to look for, still haven't even been questioned. Meanwhile “law enforcers” eat up an unthinkably large part of our budget and their number per capita in Russia exceeds anywhere else in the world.

Kashin's case remains emotional to this day. Journalist Stanislav Kupriyanov, for example, expressed his regret on his facebook [ru] for not taking part in a demonstration on behalf of Kashin after the attack:

Скажу вот как: я никогда не испытывал каких-либо сожалений по поводу своего отсутствия на Болотной (и проч. соответствующих митингах), но мне до сих пор стыдно, что я не участвовал в одиночных пикетах у здания ГУВД в знак поддержки Oleg Kashin.

I'll say this: I've never had any regrets about not attending the Bolotnaya demonstrations (or similar rallies), but I'll feel ashamed to this day that I never took part in the single-person pickets outside the Ministry of Internal Affairs, as a sign of support for Oleg Kashin.

Oleg Kashin now primarily resides in Switzerland, though he returns to Moscow regularly and continues to work as a journalist and political commentator in Russia. Journalists there continue to face harassment from a variety of sources — even though the country has become much safer for them in the last decade (with the notable exception of the North Caucasus). It's unlikely, however, that these improved statistics will be of much comfort to Kashin while his attackers remain at large.

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