Prominent Russian Environmental Campaigner Hospitalized After Beating

Andrei Rudomakha. Photo: Caucasian Knot, Twitter

A prominent Russian environmental campaigner Andrei Rudomakha was severely beaten by masked assailants and hospitalised with injuries, a fellow activist said Friday.

Mr. Rudomakha, who heads the Environmental Watch on North Caucasus organisation in southern Russia, was returning with several other people from a trip to inspect illegal construction when three men attacked them near a house belonging to one of the group’s members, activist Alexander Savelyev told AFP.

“They ran from behind, sprayed him with pepper spray, then knocked him to the ground and kicked him in the face,” said Mr. Savelyev, who was present during the attack late on Thursday.

Mr. Rudomakha sustained the most serious damage while another activist was also hit in the stomach and doused with pepper spray, Mr. Savelyev said, adding that the three men had been waiting for the group and wore medical masks over their faces.

Mr. Rudomakha was hospitalised with a broken nose, fractured skull and moderate concussion, Mr. Savelyev said, linking the attack to the group’s inspection of a construction project on the Black Sea shore earlier that day.

“Their goal was to collect the material that we filmed,” he said, adding that the attackers could not have known where to wait without information provided by police or security services. “They took our backpacks and three cameras.”

He said the residence they had been inspecting is being built in a coastal forest area with no permit, not far from a luxurious property that has been linked to President Vladimir Putin.

“They fenced off the forest, there is construction equipment, dogs, security guards, it’s all very serious,” Mr. Savelyev said, convinced the new construction is also for a top government official.

Environmental Watch has actively fought against illegally built villas on the Black Sea and criticised construction in Sochi ahead of the Olympic Games in 2014 as environmentally destructive.

Activists in the group have been attacked before and one former member, Yevgeny Vitishko, spent nearly two years in prison for damaging a fence in a forest.