The BBC is examining the possibility that three journalists working for its Russian language service, each of whom was beaten up in Moscow in the same week, were deliberately targeted because of their reporting.
The BBC World Service, along with the American-backed Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, continues to broadcast uncensored reports in Russian about what is happening under Vladimir Putin’s increasingly dictatorial regime. (Several RFE/RL journalists have been murdered in the last year, as I reported here.)
A BBC spokesperson said the World Service was “extremely concerned” by the “spate of attacks” on its journalists, all of whom were assaulted in separate incidents just before Russia’s parliamentary elections. “Although we have no evidence that the attacks were motivated by the victims’ employment, we are exploring that possibility,” he said.
David Quadrat, a Russian who works for the BBC’s Central Asian Service, was assaulted on November 24 on his way home from the BBC’s Moscow bureau. His attackers shouted racist abuse as they beat him at a crowded Moscow metro station.
Another BBC Russian staff member, Mikhail Denisov, was attacked near his home the following day. They broke his nose, damaged his ribs, and stole his wallet.
Then on November 30, another BBC Russian staff member, Yevgeny Demchenko, was assaulted while on the way home from work. He suffered head injuries and required stitches.
Independent commentators suggested that the attackers might be linked to the pro-Putin youth group Nashi, who have recently staged demonstrations outside the British embassy in Moscow.
In August, the Kremlin blocked the BBC Russian Service’s FM frequency, severely curtailing the BBC World Service’s ability to broadcast in the Moscow area. The BBC continues to broadcast on medium and short waves.