Russian Police Launch Probe Into Attack On RFE/RL Contributor

By Siberia.Realities

BLAGOVESHCHENSK, Russia -- The Investigative Committee in Russia's Far Eastern city of Blagoveshchensk has launched a probe into a physical attack on a contributor to RFE/RL's Siberia.Realities.

Andrei Afanasyev told RFE/RL that police informed him on June 29 that an investigation was launched into "hooliganism" 12 days ago.

"I think the investigators are trying to avoid mentioning the word 'journalist' in the case and present everything like it was mere hooliganism, as if [the attack] has nothing to do with my professional activities," Afanasyev said, adding that a probe should have been launched into the "obstruction of journalistic activities."

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Afanasyev was attacked and severely beaten by three unknown assailants on June 9.

He says one of the attackers knocked him to the ground late at night near his apartment block by striking him with a metal bar. He says he was then beaten for about 10 minutes by all three assailants.

Afanasyev believes the attack was retribution for a recent investigative report he filed about the Akhmat martial arts club in Blagoveshchensk. The manager of that club, Adam Magomadov, is a former leader of the Chechen diaspora community in Russia's Far Eastern Amur region.

Magomadov was arrested in April on an extortion charge.

Afanasyev's reporting revealed that Andrei Domashenkin, a local lawmaker from the ruling United Russia party, had founded the martial arts club.

When questioned by RFE/RL on June 10 about the attack against Afanasyev, Domashenkin said that "law enforcement is taking care of that case." He did not elaborate further.

On June 14, Afanasyev filed a lawsuit with the local prosecutor’s office against police in Blagoveshchensk, accusing them of failing to launch an investigation into the crime.

RFE/RL President Jamie Fly has urged Russian authorities to investigate the attack against Afanasyev.

"Russian authorities must thoroughly investigate and hold accountable anyone involved in the attack on Andrei. Investigative journalism is not a crime,” Fly said in a Twitter post on June 11.

The Committee to Project Journalists (CPJ), a New York-based media-rights watchdog, also has called for an investigation into the attack.

Siberia.Realities is a regional news outlet of RFE/RL's Russian Service.