The journalist, Oleg Kashin, 30, is in a medically induced coma in a Moscow hospital with a concussion, a broken jaw, fractures in both legs and broken fingers, the newspaper reported Saturday. At least one finger was severed at the joint.
The newspaper’s editor, Mikhail Mikhailin, said he believed the attack was related to Mr. Kashin’s assignment — covering youth political movements and protest actions, among other political themes.
“The thing that bothers me is that at the moment of the beating, they broke his fingers,” Mr. Mikhailin said in an interview with the Ekho Moskvy radio station. “It is completely obvious that the people who did this did not like what he was saying and what he was writing. I don’t know what specifically they did not like, but I firmly connect this with his professional activities.”
Unlike many Russian journalists who have been targets in recent years, Mr. Kashin works for a newspaper that is popular among Moscow’s elite, and the attack ran as the lead story on government-controlled television channels.
The Kremlin also responded quickly. President Dmitri A. Medvedev ordered Russia’s general prosecutor and interior minister to supervise the investigation, and sent a message on Twitter that said, “The criminals must be found and punished.”
Russian journalists have been the target of repeated attacks in recent years, and in most cases the investigations go nowhere.
No arrest has been made in the murder of Natalya Estemirova, who investigated violence in the north Caucasus for the opposition newspaper Novaya Gazeta, or in the beating of Mikhail Beketov, who documented corruption in the Moscow suburb of Khimki for a local newspaper.
Russia’s human rights commissioner, Vladimir P. Lukin, said attacks on journalists “have become systematic” in Russia, largely because they are never punished. “You cannot provide bodyguards to each journalist,” he said, in comments carried on Interfax. “The only way to somehow oppose these attacks is to improve the quality of work of law enforcement.”
Mr. Kashin’s next-door neighbor, Yelena Pogrebizhskaya, a well-known musician, wrote on her blog that two men were seen waiting for the journalist outside his apartment building Friday night with a bouquet of flowers. Writing an hour after he was taken to the hospital, she said, the asphalt outside the apartment was still spattered with blood.
“I think they wanted to kill him,” Mr. Mikhailin said in a phone interview. “They almost certainly followed him for a week, watched him at home, followed him to the editorial office, listened to his phone. Those two people who were waiting for him — that was the final stage of the operation, not its beginning.”
Mr. Kashin’s wife and editor said Saturday that they knew of no threats against him.
But a friend, Mikhail V. Zygar, said that Mr. Kashin, who was an active blogger before he started working for Kommersant, had clashed with “various pro-Kremlin organizations and politicians” in the course of his work, among them Molodaya Gvardiya, a pro-Kremlin youth group associated with United Russia, and Andrei Turchak, the governor of Pskov.
“It is well known that he had been threatened,” said Mr. Zygar, the editor in chief of TVRain, an Internet news site.
Among the topics Mr. Kashin covered was the continuing conflict in Khimki, where protesters have sought to stop the government from building a highway through a forest. In August, after Mr. Kashin published an interview with an activist who had attacked a government building in Khimki, a column headlined “Journalist-Betrayers Should Be Punished” appeared on Molodaya Gvardiya’s Web site.
Representatives of Molodaya Gvardiya were not available for comment on Saturday.
The article calls Kommersant’s reporters “not only enemies of the entire Russian people and all decent and law-abiding people, but — genuine traitors,” and calls on Mr. Kashin to identify his source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. The article is illustrated with Mr. Kashin’s photograph stamped with the words “will be punished.”
On Saturday, the organization removed the photo from its site and posted a statement calling the attack a “barbaric crime.”
“Those who attacked the journalist Oleg Kashin should be punished to the full extent of the law,” said the statement, signed by Andrei Tatarinov of the group’s political council. “We are hoping for Oleg to make a fast recovery.”
Andrew Kramer contributed reporting.
another journalist has been attacked in moscow. oleg kashin was beaten within an inch of his life. this happens all too frequently, and the perpetrators are never caught. there are lessons there for journalists who are too critical.
corruption is rampant in russia, and it affects everyone’s daily lives. i’ve been to moscow three times, and in a tour book i read “if you are in trouble, do not go to the police. the police are not your friends.” once in moscow, i asked some people about this, and they agreed. tourists are shaken down for doing nothing at all. russians themselves can be stopped in their cars and told that they had to pay cash for a nonexistent fine.
russia is not a friendly place for americans or russians. especially if they are journalists.