Analyst Links Attack to Vote Fraud Claim

A political analyst has been hospitalized following an attack by unidentified assailants that he believes was connected to claims he made of electoral fraud in the Dec. 2 State Duma election.

Grigory Belonuchkin, an analyst with the Panorama think tank who worked as an election monitor during the Duma elections, said he was attacked by two men on Wednesday as he left his apartment in the town of Dolgoprudny, just north of Moscow.

The attack came one day after local election officials failed to show up in court to face Belonuchkin's allegations that they manipulated results in favor of pro-Kremlin party United Russia, the analyst said by telephone from a Dolgoprudny hospital Monday.

The attack was linked to documentation he collected backing up his claims, he said.

"I have no other explanation," Belonuchkin said, adding that he was not robbed.

Belonuchkin, 39, said a young man knocked on the door of his grandmother's apartment in Dolgoprudny on Wednesday evening and asked to speak with the analyst. She informed him that her grandson did not live there, after which the young man said he urgently needed to speak with him, Belonuchkin said. She then called her grandson and handed the receiver to the young man, Belonuchkin said. "The man said he needed to talk to me but that he couldn't do it over the phone," he said.

Belonuchkin agreed to meet the man outside his grandmother's apartment building 10 minutes later.

"He greeted me and asked me to walk with him a little bit," he said. A few minutes later, another man came along, and the pair attacked him, punching him and kicking him in the head after he fell to the ground, Belonuchkin said.

Belonuchkin said he had received a concussion and other minor injuries and that, under doctors' orders, he would remain in the hospital the rest of the week.

Belonuchkin said he filed a police report but it was unclear if a criminal case had been opened.

A Dolgoprudny police spokesman refused to comment. "We don't know anything about it, and we are not supposed to comment," the spokesman said.

Calls to Moscow regional prosecutors for comment went unanswered Monday.

Belonuchkin said he planned to meet with a police investigator next Monday.

Belonuchkin worked as an election observer for the Communist Party during the Duma elections and published an article in the weekly news magazine Kommersant Vlast claiming that results in two Dolgoprudny election districts were manipulated in favor of United Russia. He subsequently filed a lawsuit with the Dolgoprudny City Court, after which he received threatening phone calls in which he was told to keep quiet and stay away from the March 2 presidential election, Belonuchkin said.

Belonuchkin said he reported the threatening calls to police, who said they could not open a criminal case because his life was not in danger.

The heads of the two election districts were ordered to appear in court on April 1 but did not show up, said Andrei Buzin, who is representing Belonuchkin in court. The next hearing in the case is scheduled for April 15, Buzin said.