- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 1, 2009

MOSCOW (AP) - A newspaper employee in a Moscow suburb has died after being beaten near his home in the latest of a string of attacks on journalists in Russia, his editor said Wednesday.

Sergei Protazanov was found by a passer-by on Sunday as he lay on a sidewalk in the town of Khimki, said Anatoly Yurov, editor of the newspaper Grazhdanskoye Soglasiye. Protazanov, who had a prosthetic arm and worked as a page designer for the paper, died at home Monday a day after doctors discharged him from hospital, Yurov said.

The RIA-Novosti news agency cited police as denying Protazanov had been beaten and saying he died from accidental poisoning. Police refused to comment to The Associated Press.

Yurov said six journalists had been severely beaten in Khimki in the past two years. He said Protazanov had been compiling an issue that included reports on alleged falsifications in local mayoral elections and he linked the attack to Protazanov’s work.

He said that Protazanov had told him by telephone from hospital on Sunday that he had been attacked. Protazanov told him from home on Monday that “Everything hurts _ on the inside and on the outside. I cannot move,” Yurov said.

Yurov said that police told Protazanov’s wife that her husband’s death was probably caused either by food he ate at the hospital or medication.

Protazanov was the second newspaper employee in Khimki, on Moscow’s northern suburbs, to be attacked in the past six months. Mikhail Beketov, the editor of the monthly Khimkinskaya Pravda newspaper, remains in a coma after being attacked in November. He had been charged with defaming local authorities during campaigns against development projects that threatened the environment.

Beketov’s lawyer and a reporter for the prominent independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta were shot to death in January in a daylight attack on a street close to the Kremlin.

The international watchdog Committee to Protect Journalists says at least 16 reporters have been murdered in Russia since 1999. Police rarely solve journalist killings and beatings.

Meanwhile, prominent human rights activist Lev Ponomaryov, 67, was beaten outside his Moscow home by unknown attackers late Tuesday, according to his daughter, Yelena Liptser. She said she believed Ponomaryov, the head of the All-Russia Movement for Human Rights, was attacked because of his rights work and his strident criticism of the Kremlin.

“There seems to be no end to the appalling series of attacks on journalists, especially local journalists, and human rights activists,” Reporters Without Borders said in a statement Wednesday. “The authorities need to actively intervene instead of just issuing statements.”

___

Associated Press Writer Steve Gutterman in Moscow contributed to this report.

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