3 BBC Staff Attacked In Space of One Week

Three employees of the British Broadcasting Corp. have been attacked in Moscow over the course of a week, and a company official said it was investigating whether they were targeted because of their work.

The attacks took place on three different dates in three different locations since Nov. 24, BBC World Service spokesman Peter Connors said in a statement.

Davlat Qudrat, a Russian citizen who works for the BBC's Central Asian service, was assaulted Nov. 24 in the metro by assailants yelling racist slurs. The attackers were arrested by police, Connors said.

A day later, Mikhail Denisov, who works in the BBC's Russian service, was attacked and robbed of his phone, bank card and a significant amount of money near his home, and he suffered broken ribs, Connors said.

On Nov. 30, Yevgeny Demchenko, a Russian service correspondent, was attacked while traveling home from work and suffered head injuries that required stitches.

"Although we have no evidence to suggest that the attacks were motivated by the victims' employment by the BBC, we are exploring that possibility. We have asked the Russian Foreign Ministry for assistance in ensuring staff safety," Connors said.

Vera Leontyeva, a senior producer for the BBC Russian Service in Moscow, referred all questions to BBC headquarters.

A spokesman for the Foreign Ministry declined to comment. A spokesman for the Moscow police could not confirm that the attacks had taken place.

Relations between Russia and Britain have plummeted in recent months amid a series of spy scandals and tit-for-tat diplomat expulsions and a chilling of ties between Moscow and the West in general.

The ties have been strained in particular over Britain's demand for the extradition of Andrei Lugovoi, the newly elected State Duma deputy identified by British prosecutors as the main suspect in last year's poisoning of former FSB agent Alexander Litvinenko. Russia has refused, citing a constitutional prohibition.

Russia, meanwhile, has complained about Britain's refusal to extradite tycoon Boris Berezovsky and Chechen separatist envoy Akhmed Zakayev, both of whom have been granted asylum there.

Activists from Nashi, a pro-Kremlin youth group, appeared outside the BBC's Moscow office on Monday following a rally on Red Square to celebrate United Russia's victory in the Duma elections. The vote was criticized by European nations and the United States.

Nashi came to prominence last year when it hounded the British ambassador for months after he attended an anti-Kremlin conference.

AP, Reuters