MOSCOW, Nov. 15, 2010 -- A prominent Russian journalist savagely beaten just over a week ago is making a good recovery, doctors say, and has written them notes asking to be taking off an artificial respirator.
Oleg Kashin, a political reporter for the leading Kommersant newspaper, asked for a pen and paper after coming out of his induced coma, Russian news site LifeNews reported.
"Can you disconnect me from the artificial respirator? When can you do it?" he reportedly wrote.
He was taken off the respirator on Monday, state-run media reported. He also described his attackers as looking like soccer fans.
A photo on the LifeNews site showed Kashin's heavily bandaged head and a tube in his nose. Despite a promising recovery, he will remain in intensive care for the time being.
Kashin was attacked just after midnight November 5, jumped by two men as he opened the gate to the courtyard of his apartment building. One of the men held a bouquet of flowers that concealed a metal rod.
As one man held Kashin down, the other beat him repeatedly with the rod and then a round object that he held with both hands. The attack lasted almost a minute and a half and was captured on a security camera. In the end, Kashin's jaws, a leg and several fingers were broken and he lost part of a pinkie.
No arrests have been made and if there are any leads, they haven't been made public. Friends and colleagues immediately said the attack was fueled by Kashin's reports, a theory the authorities agreed with.
Kashin was also one of Russia's most prolific bloggers and Twitterers. He covered political youth groups, the anti-fascist movement and a controversial highway project that would run through a forest north of Moscow.
The project through the Khimki forest has been the subject of fierce debate and demonstrations. It was suspended by President Dmitry Medvedev in August; Prime Minister Vladmir Putin is known to back it. The dispute even attracted the attention of U2's Bono when touring Russia this summer.
After Kashin interviewed an anonymous anti-highway activist who had taken part in a violent rally that attacked a local government building, the pro-Kremlin youth group Young Guard posted an article on its website titled "Journalist-traitors will be punished," along with a picture of Kashin.
Kashin's attack came two days after a Khimki environmentalist was hit in the head with a baseball bat. Two days after Kashin's attack, a regional reporter who had covered another highway project was also beaten in mysterious circumstances. In 2008, a Khimki reporter was beaten so badly he lost a leg, fingers and is now in a wheelchair, mute because of the brain damage he suffered.
Medvedev has been lauded for his swift condemnation of Kashin's attack and has vowed to track down and punish Kashin's attackers. On Sunday, several hundred people turned out in the center of Moscow in support of Kashin and protesting violence against journalists.