Grigory Pasko: The Assault of Mikhail Beketov


In Russia a good journalist – is a dead journalist?

Grigory Pasko, journalist

What happened?

The editor-in-chief of the newspaper “Khimkinskaya Pravda” (the city of Khimki is pressed right against Moscow), Mikhail Beketov, was found on 13 November in an unconscious state in the yard of his house. There he had lain around 24 hours before being discovered by a neighbour woman, who called an ambulance. The doctors declared right away that the traumas received by Beketov “are not compatible with life”. For several weeks already he is found in intensive care. Before that they amputated his leg, now is being decided the question of the amputation of fingers on the hand. Colleagues of the journalist have reported that the brain operation Beketov needs continues to be postponed. [Interfax reports on 27 November that Beketov has come out of his coma but remains hospitalized.–Ed.]

A noteworthy detail: unknown persons have already telephoned the hospital and threatened to “finish the beating” of the journalist found in a coma. Thanks to the intervention of the public, Beketov has been transferred to the Sklifosovsky Scientific-Research Institute [of Rapid Assistance, Russia’s leading emergency-care hospital–Trans.]. However, the police does not see a link between Betekov’s professional activity and the attempt by unknown persons to kill him. Given such a position of the enforcers of the law, it is not hard to suppose that the criminals will not be found. Just like they weren’t found in the event of the murders of the journalists Dmitry Kholodov, Igor Domnikov, Yuri Shchekochikhin, Anna Politkovskaya

Who is Beketov?

According to the information of «Novaya gazeta», Beketov is known for his sharp criticism of Khimki government officials in connection with the desecration of the graves of pilots at the Leningrad Chaussé and the struggle to save the Khimki forest. The authorities of the city of Khimki have threatened to settle scores with him on numerous occasions, and in this year a criminal case was unleashed against him under the article “Slander”.

Mikhail Beketov published “Khimkinskaya pravda” on his own, for his own money. The publication was the first to tell about the process of the exhumation and reburial of the remains of military pilots at the monument to the heroes of the Great Patriotic war [(1941-1945)–Trans.] in Khimki. (This was in April of 2007, right during the height of the disputes between the RF and Estonia about the Bronze soldier.)

In a month, they blew up the car for the editor-in-chief of “KhP”. This was preceded by phone calls with warnings and threats of physical settling of scores.

What was he fighting for?

This whole year, Beketov and his newspaper have been actively conducting a struggle for the Khimki forest. The problem is that during realization of the project for the construction of the Moscow — Saint-Petersburg high-speed mainline [superhighway–Trans.], practically the entire Khimki forest massif is slated for cut-down and industrial assimilation. “The collision between the laying of the Moscow – Petersburg high-speed mainline through the Khimki forest, – this is only the above-water part of the iceberg”, – asserts “Ekozashchita” activist Lyudmila Fedotova. “Along both sides of the right-of-way, a corridor of land with a width of 3 km is set aside ‘for the development of infrastructure’.”

By this can be inferred warehouse terminals, new retail complexes and other commercial facilities, with which somebody’s large-scale interests are intertwined.

The police version

To the police investigators investigating the case of the assault on the suburban Moscow journalist Mikhail Beketov has been given the unspoken indication – not to manifest particular zeal – heaven forbid that the traces will lead the in the “wrong” direction. They want to write off the assault on the editor of “Khimkinskaya Pravda” as a “garden-variety” crime. Like, unknown unemployed persons wanted to rob Beketov, but he offered resistance, for which he paid with his health.

The position of the power

Deputy head of Khimki Alexey Khomutov declared to journalists that the administration of the city district has nothing whatsoever to do with the incident. “It is loud [an exaggeration–Trans.] to call the victim a journalist, while the print publication – a newspaper,” underscored he. “It officially is not registered anywhere and, to the best of my knowledge, is financed by a private person. To me are unknown cases when the powers of a city would have attempted through a court to defend their honor and dignity, injured in this newspaper.”

In so doing, notes the newspaper «Moskovsky komsomolets», the official had clearly forgotten that head of the administration of Khimki Vladimir Strelchenko had filed suit against Beketov after the publication of an article about the arson on the car of the editor-in-chief (it had been said that the master of the rayon may have been the one who put out the contract).

It ought to be noted that the incident with the attack on the journalist – is far from the first in Russia in this year: someone had counted – he may even have been the tenth. In a country where they kill journalists, while at the same time the power doesn’t react at all, – these incidents, most likely, will continue.

Photo: Editor of «Khimkinskaya pravda» Mikhail Beketov