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Toni Schönfelder
A lifetime of innovation

Russian Journalists Targeted in Attacks Corruption Investigators Face Slashed By Sharon LaFraniere 12/28/00 MOSCOW, Dec. 27 Russian journalists are a worried bunch these days. In the past few months, the owner of the nations only independent television network was arrested for the second time. One of Russias most popular television commentators was pulled off the air -- he says for criticizing President Vladimir Putin. A Moscow newspaper was raided by the secret service after it published a satellite photo of the sunken Russian submarine Kursk. Yet even in this nail-biting context, the Dec. 16 attack on Moscow reporter Oleg Luriye attracted notice. This was not because Luriye is so well known; he is not, although his stories last year about bribe-paying Kremlin contractors won him a modest reputation as a digger. The attack caused a stir because there seems to be no explanation for it aside from Luriyes articles about corruption among government officials, especially in the Kremlin. It was also noteworthy because Moscow journalists, though subject to all kinds of pressure, generally are not attacked with straight razors. "It was a warning," said Luriye, sipping coffee in a restaurant last week after his release from a hospital, where doctors stitched up three slashes across his left cheek. "It was a demonstration of power." For Luriyes newspaper, the independent twice-weekly Novaya Gazeta, it was the second assault on one of its journalists this year. In July, a reporter who covered cultural affairs died after he was beaten in the head with a hammer. Novaya Gazeta editors said that reporter had apparently been mistaken for a colleague who lived in the same building who was investigating allegations of high-level corruption involving oil deals. The assault on Luriye was another reprisal, said Yuri Schekochikin, who is a deputy both to the newspapers editor in chief and to the head of the security committee in the lower house of parliament. "I think this shows that the authorities are continuing their policy of intimidating journalists," he said. "I believe the attack . . . is typical of President Putins press policy, where there is room only for officially sanctioned . . . propaganda." The Kremlin made no immediate response to Schekochikins comments. Attacks on Russian journalists are not unusual. Oleg Panfilov, who runs the Moscow Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations, said he has counted 68 this year, including six involving Russian reporters. Most attacks occur in the provinces, not in the capital, and most are never solved, Panfilov said. Luriye was slashed, he said, because someone wanted to silence him. He does not rule out government officials, who he said "are slowly waging war against journalists." Luriye, 37, said he had just arrived home from a birthday party for a friend when he was surrounded by four men. One of them closed the garage door, shutting Luriyes wife inside. He said he offered them his watch, wallet and car keys but that they showed not a flicker of interest and said not a word. Only because his wife backed the car out through the garage door did he escape greater injury, Luriye said, adding that he suffered a concussion as well as facial wounds. Luriye said he suspects the attack was related to articles he recently published accusing Alexander Voloshin, Putins chief of staff, of illegally enriching himself before he went to work in the Kremlin through deals involving businessman Boris Berezovsky -- now the target of a criminal investigation. Voloshin has not responded to Luriyes articles. Three days before the attack, Luriye said, police officers came to the newspapers office and seized his files on Voloshin and Berezovsky. The night before the attack, on a news program broadcast by the independent television network NTV, Luriye accused the Kremlin of singling out Putins opponents for criminal prosecution and ignoring allegations about Kremlin insiders. Luriye said he does not expect the police to find his assailants. He said officers busied themselves with forms and phone calls but left the hat of one of his attackers lying in the snow, never tested his clothes for blood and never dusted the garage-door handle for fingerprints. Asked what comes next, he said, "I continue to work." He will also apply for a green card that would enable him to work in the United States, he said, "just in case something happens again."

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