Editor assaulted after critical articles

August 16, 2006—The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns an attack on Igor Mosiichuk, editor-in-chief of the independent Ukrainian weekly Vecherny Vasilkov, which follows a series of articles he published on local land deals and a controversial oil tank farm.

Two unidentified assailants beat Mosiichuk August 14 in a street in Vasilkov, 23 miles (37 kilometers) southwest of the capital Kyiv. They hit him with a heavy blunt object and fled without taking the $1,000 in U.S. bills that he was carrying, according to local press reports and CPJ interviews.

Mosiichuk is being treated in Vasilkov city hospital for head injuries, Sergei Kryzhanovsky, deputy editor of Vecherny Vasilkov told CPJ. Local press reports said police have opened a criminal case but they have classified the attack as “hooliganism.” They have not questioned staff at the newspaper about a journalistic motive for the attack, Kryzhanovsky said. Mosiichuk and his family had received many anonymous threats in the past three months, Kryzhanovsky added.

“We are outraged by this brutal attack on Igor Mosiichuk,” said CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon said. “We are disturbed that police have immediately classified it as ’hooliganism.’ We call on the authorities to investigate whether there are links between Vecherny Vasilkov’s recent coverage of sensitive stories and this assault.”

Vecherny Vasilkov has carried several stories on local officials who have benefited from the privatization of city land. It has also reported on attempts by officials to reopen an oil storage depot, closed a year ago after complaints by local residents about toxic fumes and environmental damage.

On August 15, two men who identified themselves as police officers, tried to visit Mosiichuk in the hospital, but were stopped by medical personnel, Kryzhanovsky said. “They told the doctors that they wanted to ask Igor some questions but when they were asked to produce some sort of identification, they left,” Kryzhanovsky said.

He said Mosiichuk’s immediate family had fled Vasilkov after the assault and did not want their whereabouts to be known.