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05/02/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Lev Ponomarev, Russian Human Rights Activist, Attacked

Lev Ponomarev, the leader of the Moscow-based group "For Human Rights," was attacked and brutally beaten Tuesday in what the human rights activist is describing as a "contract assault." Ponomarev insists that the attack was revenge-driven and hardly a "random beating by hooligans," the Financial Times reports. From the Times:

The timing of the attack could not have been worse for Russia's international reputation. Coming on the eve of Russian president Dmitry Medvedev's first summit talks with US president Barack Obama in London on Wednesday, it follows a string of beatings and killings of opposition figures over the past few months, in which perpetrators are rarely if ever found.

Tatyana Lokshina, head of the Moscow office of Human Rights Watch, said "I connect this attack to Mr Ponomarev's professional work. This incident shows that the atmosphere in which Russian civil society works is unacceptable."

This is not the first time Ponomarev has been attacked in connection to words and actions he has taken against the state. According to Amnesty International:

Just prior to the attack, Lev Ponomarev had met with Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger, the Rapporteur of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, regarding allegations of politically-motivated abuses of the criminal justice system in connection with this trial.

Lev Ponomarev has also criticized the Russian penal system repeatedly. At a press conference in June 2008, during which he described ill-treatment of detainees in penal colonies, he was attacked by a group of young people, allegedly acting on behalf of a Russian parliamentarian.

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