Russian journalist brain-damaged after attack dies

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Associated Press

Posted on April 8, 2013 at 8:33 AM

Updated Monday, Apr 8 at 9:03 AM

MOSCOW (AP) — Mikhail Beketov, a Russian journalist who suffered brain damage and lost a leg after a brutal assault that followed his campaign against a highway project outside Moscow, died Monday. He was 55.

His lawyer, Stalina Gurevitch, told the Rapsi news agency that Beketov died in a hospital Monday after choking on food.

Beketov was part of a group fighting against the construction of a highway through the Khimki forest near Moscow. The founder and editor of a Khimki newspaper, he was among the first to raise the alarm about the destruction of the forest and suspicions that local officials were profiting from the project.

He refused to back down, even after his dog was left dead on his doorstep and his car was set on fire.

Several people with high-profile political connections reportedly stood to profit from the highway's construction, including Arkady Rotenberg, a billionaire who once taught judo to President Vladimir Putin. Road construction is one of the most corrupt sectors of Russia's economy, with numerous opportunities for kickbacks and bribes.

In November 2008, Beketov was beaten so viciously that he was unable to speak. He was in a coma for several months and spent more than two years in hospitals.

His attackers were never identified.

Several other journalists and environmentalists who campaigned against the project have been attacked.

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