Suspect in custody after Nobel Peace Prize-winning journalist attacked with paint

Moscow, Russia - According to his own account, Russian Nobel Peace Prize laureate Dmitry Muratov was attacked on a train by an unknown person who poured red paint over him.

Russian Nobel Peace Prize winner Dmitry Muratov was attacked on a train.
Russian Nobel Peace Prize winner Dmitry Muratov was attacked on a train.  © Screenshot/Twitter/@novayagazeta_eu

The liberal newspaper Novaya Gazeta published a photo of its editor-in-chief on Thursday, showing his face, upper body and arms covered in red oil paint.

"My eyes are burning terribly," Muratov wrote on Twitter. There was initially no reaction from the Russian authorities.

The 60-year-old was on the Moscow-Samara train when he was attacked by a man, who apparently shouted: "Muratov, take this for our boys." The journalist added that there was a smell of the oil paint on the train and the departure was delayed. "I'm trying to wash it off," Muratov reported.

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The details of the motive and the perpetrators of the attack were unclear. Muratov also showed his sleeping car compartment splashed with red paint. Presumably there was a connection with Russia's war in Ukraine, in which many soldiers have already died.

Police have launched a search for suspects, Russia's Interfax news agency reported, citing the interior ministry. The traffic police were organizing measures to identify and detain two men.

According to the Ministry of the Interior, when passengers boarded at the Kazan train station in Moscow, two men wearing medical masks got into the carriage who said they were escorts to the conductor.

Then someone reportedly entered the compartment and poured red paint over the passenger. Immediately afterwards, the two men ran onto the platform and disappeared, according to the Interfax report.

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Muratov was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2021.
Muratov was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2021.  © IMAGO / ITAR-TASS

Journalists critical of the government are repeatedly the target of attacks in Russia. At the newspaper Novaya Gazeta, which is run by Muratov, female employees have also been murdered, such as the journalists Anna Politkovskaya and Natalya Estemirova, who died from gunshots.

Muratov, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2021 alongside Filipino-American journalist Maria Ressa, had always stressed that he would not be intimidated.

He had recently temporarily suspended publication of the newspaper due to pressure from Russian authorities until the war in Ukraine was over. Muratov had publicly criticized President Vladimir Putin's war against Ukraine.

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The newspaper had refrained from writing about a "war" after the enactment of a new law restricting press freedom and freedom of expression in Russia. The word is outlawed in Russia in connection with the invasion of Ukraine.

However, Novaya Gazeta has recently published major reports on the suffering of the people in the course of the war.

UPDATE, April 8, 3:20 PM EDT: One suspect is in custody

One person has been detained after Muratov reported being attacked with paint, leaving him with chemical burns to his eyes.

Muratov tweeted a photo of himself in a hospital bed on Friday, but said that his eyes remained intact.

A 37-year-old man is in custody after the Thursday night incident, according to the Interfax news agency, citing investigators. The search is still on for a second suspect.

According to media reports, the two alleged attackers are former soldiers who took issue with Muratov's criticism of Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

A nationalist military group posted a short video of the attack on the "Club Z of paratroopers" Telegram channel and claimed responsibility for it, describing it as revenge for fallen Russian soldiers in Ukraine. The post was later deleted.

Cover photo: Screenshot/Twitter/@novayagazeta_eu

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