Russian journalist dies after police beating

A middle-aged Russian journalist in Tomsk, Siberia, died Wednesday. He succumbed to injuries allegedly suffered as a young police officer beat him into a coma earlier in the month while in a holding cell reserved for the drunk and disorderly. The injuries included severe damage to many of his internal organs.

Authorities identified this little-known reporter who specialized in economics as Konstantin Popov. Popov was one of the cofounders of a small regional newspaper publisher and a local magazine called Tema.

In a country where police brutality and corruption—especially against journalists—is not uncommon, the editor-in-chief of Tema, Konstantin Karpachyov, said it was unlikely Popov’s murder was in any way related to his work.

However, Karpachyov went on to say that, “This could happen to absolutely anyone. It demonstrates the police terror is aimed against everybody.”

“The only thing different about this case is that he happened to be a journalist, so it became a high-profile public case. But the same thing happens every day,” said Svetlana Gannushkina, of Russia’s Civic Assistance committee. “Usually the cases are just closed down because there’s no evidence, nobody testifies, and it’s impossible to get to the bottom of it.”

President Dmitry Medvedev said that such police misconduct was not only angering the Russian public but was also undermining the state’s authority. He called for comprehensive reform and ordered the Interior Ministry to cut its staff by one-fifth by 2012.

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