A Russian election observer who exposed several instances of mass rigging following last December's Duma parliamentary poll has been assaulted outside his home in Moscow, just weeks before the start of the court case against the alleged election riggers. In hospital with cerebral concussion, it looks as though Grigori Belonuchkin might not be well enough testify in the case.

One of our Observers for Russia, Belonuchkin was knocked to the ground and kicked in the head repeatedly by two youths on Tuesday. The social activist, who is used to being called upon for advice, says that when he came out of his house to talk to the young enquirers, they immediately attacked him. Belonuchkin acted as an electoral monitor for the Russian Communist Party in several polling stations in the Moscow suburb of Dolgoprudny, though he is not himself a member of the party. Following the vote, he sent us photographic evidence of electoral fraud, which we published on Dec 5. However, despite strong proof of malpractice, the town's prosecutor's office refused to take up the case. Belonuchkin decided to initiate it himself, and was called to testify on the 15th of this month - exactly two weeks from Tuesday.

So far, we haven't been able to get in touch with Grigori as he's still in hospital. We'll publish more on this story as soon as we have further information.

"Grigori received telephone threats"

Andrey Buzin is a fellow political activist:

Thre is no doubt the physical attack on Grigori Belonuchkin is connected to the case. Before the beating, Belonuchkin received telephone threats related to the case. Even if the assault wasn't initiated by the town's administration, which is behind the organisation of elections (as opposed to the election commissioners who are just implementers), it's obvious that the bureaucratic machine as a whole is responsible for this crime. Grigori told the police about the threats he'd received, but it didn't have any noticeable effect. He applied to the prosecutor's office with the evidence he'd collected, but they said they "didn't find any components of crime" in the documents. Blatant falsifications of the Duma elections in the Moscow region (as well as in many other parts of Russia) were witnessed many times, and yet all of [the perpetrators] remain unpunished. That's why the thugs who beat up Grigori Belonuchkin feel protected by the Russian government's machinery."