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24.07.2017

Russia: skunk gas attack on radio host

by Jane Whyatt

Unknown attackers have sprayed a foul-smelling liquid into the family home of one of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s vocal critics. Julia Latynina, a host on Echo of Moscow radio station said she would not report the attack to the police because she did not believe it would be taken seriously. “I am not going to take part in a farce,“ she said. 

Yulia Latynina Yulia Latynina. Photo: Dmitry Rozhkov, Yulia Latynina 05, CC BY-SA 3.0 by Dmitry Rokhkov

Ms Latynina said eight people were affected by the gas attack. She commented that she believed it was “Skunk“, an American product. Skunk water is used by some U.S. and Israeli law enforcement authorities to control crowds at demonstrations and rallies. The eight people who suffered from inhaling the gas included Latynina’s elderly parents. Her father Leonid is a poet and writer, and her mother Alla an award-winning literary critic.

In a statement to the Interfax news agency the police confirmed that the liquid that was sprayed does not pose a threat to life or health. In 2016 Julia Latynina suffered a similar attack when a bucket of excrement was emptied over her head. Latynina writes a column in the “Novaya Gazeta” newspaper and commented that the latest assault with the stinking gas was meant as a warning that the attackers know where her family lives.

Journalists’ deaths and violent assaults

Elsewhere in Russia two journalists have been killed this year and their deaths remain unexplained. Dmitry Popkov, the 42-year-old former local councillor and founder of “Ton-M”, an anti-corruption newspaper was shot dead in a traditional bath-house near his home in Minusinsk, Siberia. In April Nikolai Andrushchenko, co-founder of the weekly newspaper Novy Peterburg died of his injuries after being severely beaten. He was 73 years old.

Journalist Alexei Vladimirov, who was wearing a press badge on his chest, complained that he was hit by a police officer at an anti-corruption rally on March 26th in Petrazavodsk. The journalist’s glasses were broken but the local Investigative Committee refused to bring charges.

Smartphone smashed

At rallies for the opposition political leader Alexei Navalny, two bloggers reported incidents of violence in Orenburg and Petrazavodsk. One had his smartphone seized and was obliged to go to a police station, where the police made him sign a document saying that he had lost it before it was returned to him. Another had his smartphone smashed by a pro-Kremlin activist. In evidence the activist claimed he had an attack of toothache and had suddenly raised his hand to his face in pain – a gesture which caused the blogger to drop his phone.

ECPMF Chair Henrik Kaufholz comments: “These latest incidents of violence against critical journalists give cause for concern, We urge the Russian authorities to prosecute those responsible, to thoroughly investigate the deaths of Dmitry Popkov and Nikolai Andruschenko and to defend the rights of all journalists to do their jobs without fear of being attacked or intimidated.“

Meanwhile around 1,000 internet freedom campaigners marched through Moscow streets on 23rd July. They were protesting against the arrest on terrorism charges of Ruslan Solokovsky. He is a video blogger who filmed himself playing Pokemon Go! inside an Orthodox church. The demonstration was organised by opposition parties including the Pirate Party of Russia. Police estimated the number of participants at 800.





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