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Tuesday, December 11, 2007

BBC Under Neo-Soviet Seige in Moscow

The Beeb reports:

BBC alarm at Moscow staff attacks

The BBC says it is concerned by three attacks on employees of its Moscow bureau in the past two weeks. The attacks took place between 24 November and 30 November in three different locations in Moscow, in the run-up to the Russian elections. One staff member was assaulted on a metro train, another was robbed and beaten near his home and a third was attacked while going home from work. The BBC says it is checking if its staff were targeted over their work. "Although we have no evidence to suggest that the attacks were motivated by the victims' employment by the BBC, we are exploring that possibility," BBC World Service spokesman Peter Connors said. "We have asked the Russian Foreign Ministry for assistance in ensuring staff safety," Mr Connors said. The organisation said it was "extremely concerned" by the attacks and was reviewing its safety procedures in Moscow.

Head injuries

The first attack took place on 24 November on the Moscow subway system, when a group of youth yelling racist abuse assaulted an employee, a Russian citizen working for the BBC's Central Asian Service. The assailants were then arrested by the police, the BBC said. Another BBC employee was attacked near his home the following day. His phone, wallet and money were stolen and he was left with a broken nose and two suspected broken ribs. A third employee was attacked on 30 November as he was travelling home from work. He suffered head injuries that required stitches. Ties between the UK and Russia have grown strained over the last year.

Russia has refused to extradite a businessman Britain accuses of poisoning the former KGB officer Alexander Litvinenko. Russia has been accused of suppressing democracy and human rights by the UK, while Moscow has accused the UK of interfering in Russian affairs. The BBC is largely funded by a public licence fee and is editorially independent of the British government.

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