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Russian Intelligence Behind Novaya Gazeta Editor Attack, U.S. Official Says

Russian intelligence was behind an April attack in Moscow that inflicted chemical burns on a Nobel Prize-winning Russian newspaper editor, American officials said Thursday.

U.S. intelligence agencies concluded that Russian intelligence operatives orchestrated the April 7 attack on Dmitri A. Muratov, the editor in chief of Novaya Gazeta, an independent newspaper critical of the Kremlin and the war in Ukraine.

Mr. Muratov was preparing to travel on a train from Moscow when red paint laced with acetone was thrown on his face, causing chemical burns to his eyes.

Credit…Novaya Gazeta Europe’s Telegram channel, via Associated Press

The American intelligence assessment has been declassified and U.S. officials confirmed the information on Thursday. The assessment was earlier reported by The Washington Post.

In 2021, Mr. Muratov shared the Nobel Peace Prize with a crusading Filipina journalist in recognition of “their courageous fight for freedom of expression, which is a precondition for democracy and lasting peace.” Six of Novaya Gazeta’s journalists have been killed.

After Russia enacted a draconian censorship law in March that effectively criminalizes any reporting on the war that contradicts the Kremlin, Novaya Gazeta was one of the few independent Russian media outlets that decided to continue publication.

But in late March, Novaya Gazeta said it would suspend operation until after the Ukraine war was over, after it was twice warned by the Russian government that it had violated the new law. The second warning came a day after a Russian journalist asked a question on Mr. Muratov’s behalf in a group interview with President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine.

Less than two weeks later, while on a train that was preparing to leave Moscow for a city to the southeast, Samara, Mr. Muratov was attacked. On April 12, Novaya Gazeta resumed publication briefly to post an investigation into the attack. That investigation identified the attacker and linked him to a group that denied it had conducted the assault.

The U.S. intelligence work concluding that the assailant was working for Russian spy services was independent of the Novaya Gazeta investigation and drew from different sources, said a person briefed on the matter. U.S. officials, in keeping with standard practice, declined to discuss the sources American intelligence agencies used to draw the conclusion.

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