Reporter badly hurt in assault in Moscow

Saturday, November 6, 2010; 7:03 PM

A reporter for a major Russian newspaper was hospitalized and in an induced coma Saturday after two men smashed his head, legs and fingers in an attack that authorities believe was linked to his work.

The unidentified attackers were waiting for Oleg Kashin, 30, when he returned to his apartment in central Moscow just after midnight, neighbors and prosecutors said.

Colleagues at the Kommersant newspaper said Kashin was beaten so badly that he suffered a concussion and fractures to his upper and lower jaw and both lower legs.

The beating was the latest in a wave of attacks on journalists and activists in Russia. Since 2000, at least 18 killings of journalists have gone unsolved, according to the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists.

The Kremlin, however, seemed determined to show that this assault would be treated differently, with President Dmitry Medvedev ordering Russia's prosecutor general and interior minister to oversee the investigation. "The criminals should be found and punished," Medvedev wrote on Twitter.

Also Saturday, Medvedev used a rare veto to block a law proposed by his main backers, the ruling United Russia party, that would have imposed new restrictions on street protests.

Several opposition groups welcomed the veto, but the head of one anti-Kremlin group called it a hollow gesture that would leave other restrictions untouched.

- Associated Press, Reuters

Ash prompts airlines to cancel flights

Airlines fearful of volcanic ash canceled flights Saturday into Indonesia's capital, while the closure of airports nearest Mount Merapi has delayed the arrival of burn cream and ventilators for those injured by searing gases. The recent eruptions, including the deadliest in decades, have killed 138 people.

Indonesia's most volatile mountain unleashed nearly 2 billion cubic feet of gas, rocks and ash Friday that raced down its slopes at highway speeds, mowing down a slope-side village and leaving charred corpses in its path. It continued to rumble and groan Saturday, at times spitting ash up to five miles in the air.

Three days before President Obama's visit to Indonesia, at least 11 international carriers canceled flights to Jakarta over concerns about the volcano, 280 miles away. Obama has twice delayed visits this year to his boyhood home, but the White House has not indicated that his planned arrival Tuesday is in jeopardy.

- Associated Press, staff reports

Tomas fades in Atlantic: Tropical Storm Tomas spun away from the Turks and Caicos Islands and into the open Atlantic on Saturday, gradually losing steam a day after battering seaside towns in Haiti as a Category 1 hurricane. Tomas came ashore on Haiti's far southwestern edge with 85-mile-per-hour winds, flooding several towns and damaging buildings with gale-force winds. Six people died, all outside the capital, the government said Saturday, revising the figure of seven dead it released Friday. About 10,000 people left their homes voluntarily to escape floodwaters, it said.

Pirates report ransom payment, free ships: Somali pirates said they had received a record ransom of $9.5 million for the release of the Samho Dream, a South Korean oil supertanker they hijacked in the Indian Ocean in early April this year. A spokesman for the East African Seafarers Assistance Program confirmed that the supertanker was free and that a Singapore-registered ship hijacked in June in the Gulf of Aden had also been released.

Crowds mourn slain Pakistani politician: Thousands attended the funeral in Karachi of a Pakistani politician who was stabbed in London in September in a slaying that set off rioting in his hometown, Pakistan's financial hub. Imran Farooq, 50, who lived in self-imposed exile after fleeing a crackdown on his party in 1992, was killed outside his London home.

Dalai Lama, in Japan, backs Chinese dissident: Exiled Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, in Japan for a visit that appears likely to overlap with Chinese leader Hu Jintao's attendance at a regional summit, reiterated his support for jailed Chinese dissident and fellow Nobel peace laureate Liu Xiaobo. Relations between Japan and China have cooled since September, when Japan detained the Chinese skipper of a boat that collided with Japanese patrol vessels near disputed isles in the East China Sea.

Pompeii house falls: The 2,000-year-old "House of the Gladiators" in the ruins of ancient Pompeii collapsed, sparking fresh debate on whether the Italian government is doing enough to safeguard a world treasure.

- From news services

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