Crusading Russian journalist fined after maiming

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A journalist left handicapped by a beating has been convicted of defaming an official he criticised when writing about road-building corruption and the destruction of the Khimki forest near Moscow.

Mikhail Beketov's supporters said the verdict was just another sign of the degradation of media freedom in Russia. Another journalist covering the same story was beaten so badly over the weekend that doctors placed him into an artificial coma to protect his brain.

Mr Beketov, editor of the Khimkinskaya Pravda newspaper, annoyed authorities with his articles about corruption involving the Khimki forest, part of which has been torn down to make way for a road to St Petersburg which may or may not be built.

Mr Beketov now uses a wheelchair and is unable to speak after a vicious beating by two unidentified assailants near his home in 2008 left him unconscious in the snow and forced doctors to amputate his leg.

One of the officials Mr Beketov criticised was Vladimir Strelchenko, the mayor of Khimki. Mr Beketov gave a 2007 television interview in which he accused Mr Strelchenko of being involved in blowing up his car.

Mr Strelchenko sued for slander, and the court in Khimki issued a 5,000 rouble (£100) fine yesterday but said Mr Beketov did not have to pay because of a technicality.