Russian journalist stabbed in neck 'in medical coma'

Ola CICHOWLAS
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Picture obtained from Vitaly Ruvinsky's Facebook page on October 23, 2017 shows police officers detaining the man (L) who allegedly stabbed Tatiana Felgengauer, a presenter at Echo of Moscow radio station, in Moscow

A Russian journalist was in a medically induced coma Monday after a man claiming a "telepathic" connection broke into a radio station critical of the Kremlin and stabbed her in the neck.

Tatyana Felgengauer, a 32-year-old presenter for Echo of Moscow, was attacked after the suspect entered the radio station's building in central Moscow and blinded the security guard with a spray, editor-in-chief Alexei Venediktov said.

A police video shows the suspect, identified by the station as Boris Grits, saying he had known the journalist "telepathically" for years.

"Using this telepathic contact she stole in every night and tormented me... She had been (sexually) harassing me for two months," the man says in a clip posted to the Moscow police website.

Felgengauer underwent surgery and was in a medically induced coma at a Moscow hospital, Venediktov said, adding that her life was not in danger but the extent of the damage from the stabbing was not yet known.

"This is a serious attack, a serious blow and her state is also serious," Venediktov said on the radio.

Speaking earlier to reporters, he said the attacker had broken into the station's Moscow office and lunged at Felgengauer with a knife.

"There was a lot of blood and she was in shock," the editor said, adding that the suspect, who was overpowered by a security guard, seemed to be targeting her directly.

"He knew where he was going and he knew who he was going to. We are all shocked."

The assault comes after a string of attacks against other prominent journalists and politicians who criticize the government, the highest profile of which was Boris Nemtsov, the opposition leader gunned down on a bridge near the Kremlin in 2015.

- Suspect's blog -

Writing in a Telegram message, the radio station identified the suspect as a foreign national and released a picture of the dishevelled man dressed in a black jacket and trousers seated in a chair.

The Echo of Moscow also released a link to a blog in which the author, Boris Grits, complained this month that Felgengauer had been stalking him and that the two had a "telepathic connection."

"Tatyana Felgengauer is stalking me non-stop: morning, day and night," he wrote, complaining she's been looking for ways to control his breathing and heart.

He called on her colleagues to stop her. "In a few weeks I am coming to Moscow and if this does not stop the consequences could be very unpleasant," he wrote.

The Investigative Committee said it had opened a criminal case against a 48-year-old man on suspicion of attempted murder.

Moscow police said the attacker was driven by "personal animosity."

Venediktov said that two security guards had also been hurt.

Felgengauer is one of the radio station's deputy editors and a longtime presenter of a morning news programme.

She is also actively involved in opposition rallies and has thousands of followers on her public Facebook page.

Prominent outspoken journalist and another Echo of Moscow presenter Yulia Latynina this year left Russia after attacks on her car and home.

Latynina had warned that by empowering hardline activists of all stripes the Russian state risked losing what she called a monopoly on violence.

The radio station had asked its majority owner Gazprom Media, an arm of gas giant Gazprom, to boost security after the attacks on Latynina but its plea was not taken seriously, Venediktov said.

- Smear documentary -

The Rossiya 24 rolling news channel broadcast this month a documentary that claimed Echo of Moscow was working with foreign non-governmental organisations and calling the radio station "the Echo of the US State Department."

Felgengauer featured in the programme.

The Trade Union of Journalists, an independent Russian group, called the assault an "attack on media freedom" in the country and accused Rossiya 24 of fomenting hatred.

It added the film could have provoked the man to attack the journalist.

The Echo of Moscow was founded during the perestroika era as the Soviet Union's first independent radio, going on air for the first time on August 22, 1990.

Since then it has been the mouthpiece of the liberal opposition, with its editorial policy frequently putting it on political thin ice.

Russia has a disturbing record of attacks on reporters, with 58 killed since 1992, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.