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Russian journalists face violence, intimidation

Sergei Protazanov's killing in March was the latest in a series of violent attacks targeting journalists.

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The road to Moscow's main international airport passes through Khimki, and all that most people ever see of it are rows of gray Soviet-era apartment blocks and a giant new shopping mall featuring Russia's first IKEA furniture shop.

But local civil society activists say what you don't see from the main highway is the fear that has been stalking this grim industrial suburb.

"The situation in Khimki is not normal; this is a kind of military dictatorship," says Yevgeniya Chirikova, a member of In Defense of Khimki Forest, a local environmental group. "Journalists and public figures are constantly being threatened. It's as if our local authorities cannot accept any different way of thinking."

Over the past year there has been a series of violent attacks on independent journalists here, culminating in the controversial death in late March of newspaper designer Sergei Protazanov, who had been preparing an issue of the oppositionist Grazhdanskoye Soglasiye devoted to electoral fraud in Khimki's March 1 mayoral contest. That election was won by the candidate of the pro-Kremlin United Russia Party.

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