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Page last updated at 15:41 GMT, Wednesday, 1 April 2009 16:41 UK

Russian rights activist attacked

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A Russian human rights advocate and government critic has been badly beaten up in the capital, Moscow.

Lev Ponomaryov, leader of the For Human Rights group, was attacked outside his home and was briefly hospitalised.

"They hit me from behind. I fell on the ground. Two or three people began beating me," he told Russian TV.

Human rights activists say the attack illustrated the dangerous atmosphere in Russia, where those who speak out are at risk of being beaten or killed.

Ludmila Alexeyeva of the Moscow Helsinki Group (MHG), another human rights group, said Mr Ponomaryov had an active role in the newly established Solidarity opposition movement.

After the attack on Tuesday night, Mr Ponomaryov told RenTV: "They were kicking me, trying to hit my head and chest. I covered myself, as they teach you to do in films, and screamed, very loudly."

'No end to attacks'

Meanwhile, a newspaper employee has died after what his editor said was a violent attack in Moscow.

Sergei Protazanov, who was disabled, worked as a page designer for the newspaper, Grazhdanskoye Soglasiye.

Police said he had died of poisoning after being released from hospital, having been found in an "unsober" state.

But the newspaper's editor, Anatoly Yurov, said: "The theory of poisoning is complete rubbish. It was murder. If a person is beaten up in such a way that he died then it is murder."

Reporters Without Borders reacted on Wednesday by saying: "There seems to be no end to the appalling series of attacks on journalists, especially local journalists, and human rights activists."



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