MOSCOW, April 8 (Reuters) - A Russian reporter who was savagely beaten in 2008 in what press freedom campaigners said was symptomatic of a culture of fear and impunity under the leadership of Vladimir Putin, died on Monday.
Mikhail Beketov, 55, lost three fingers, part of his lower leg and sustained so much brain damage he could no longer speak, died in hospital after food clogged his breathing tube, a foundation set up to help with his medical costs said.
"The culprits have not been found and now we can honestly say these people were murderers," said Yevgenia Chirikova, an activist who campaigned with Beketov against plans to build a highway between Moscow and St. Petersburg through a forest.
Beketov, editor of a local newspaper in the Moscow suburb of Khimki, made enemies by writing exposes on corruption, shady land deals and crooked loans.
No one has been convicted of his beating.
Journalists in Russia risk beatings and even death if they delve into the murky world where politics and business overlap. President Putin's critics say such crimes are carried out with impunity.
Russia has the ninth worst record for solving murders against journalists on a global index compiled by the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), which says 54 journalists have been killed in Russia since 1992.
Beketov, who said he had received threats to stop writing and had been the victim of previous attacks, was given an award for bravery by Putin last year. (Reporting By Alissa de Carbonnel; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)