MOSCOW – A Russian journalist who was put into a temporary coma by a stabbing attack thanked supporters Monday in her first statement from the hospital, while Russian President Vladimir Putin sought to play down the attack.
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Tatyana Felgenhauer, a top host and deputy editor-in-chief at Ekho Moskvy, Russia's only independent news radio station, was stabbed in the throat last week. She underwent surgery and is still in the hospital.
Investigators have identified the assailant as 48-year-old Boris Grits who holds Russian and Israeli citizenship. He is under arrest. The station says he attacked its security guard then went up to a higher floor to directly target Felgenhauer.
In her first statement since the attack, Felgenhauer thanked colleagues, family and friends Monday and said "you have to fight for your life." She recalled how a stranger who was visiting the station stayed with her while a colleague went to call for help.
"That woman didn't walk away," Felgenhauer said. "She helped to press on the wounds on my throat because I had no energy left and I was beginning to choke on the blood."
Speaking at a session with Russia's most prominent rights activists, President Putin on Monday rejected suggestions that the attack on Felgenhauer came amid an ongoing crackdown on independent journalists for their critical reporting.
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"That was just a sick man," Putin said in the reference to the attacker. "What does freedom of speech have to do with this?"
He also emphasized that Ekho Moskvy is funded by the state.
While Ekho Moskvy is majority-owned by a media arm of the state-controlled Gazprom natural gas giant, its programs have often been critical of the government, angering many in Russian political and business circles. Its hosts and journalists have previously reported receiving death threats.
Felgenhauer's statement came a day after Russia's major state television station put out a 13-minute clip attacking Ekho Moskvy and claiming the station had provoked the attack.
Rossiya 24's Dmitry Kiselyov, whose station aired a documentary two weeks before the attack accusing Felgenhauer and her colleagues of working against Russia, on his Sunday show described the attacker as "a typical Ekho Moskvy fan."
Ekho Moskvy's editor-in-chief Alexei Venediktov said last week that he had to evacuate another host, Ksenia Larina, because of security concerns. Another senior editor at Ekho confirmed Monday that Larina had fled Russia.
Kiselyov, who is also a senior executive at the state-owned TV company that runs Rossiya 24, dismissed Venediktov's concerns as "persecutory delusion." He insisted that his channel never "called (Larina) a criminal or urged to bar her from the profession."