Russian environmental activist hospitalized after beating

MOSCOW (Reuters) - A leading Russian environmental activist said on Friday he had been hospitalized after being severely beaten by unknown assailants in the southern city of Krasnodar.

Andrei Rudomakha, head of the Environmental Watch on the North Caucasus NGO, told Reuters he and a group of activists were assaulted late on Thursday upon returning from the Black Sea coastal city of Gelendzhik where they were documenting the illegal construction of a mansion for high-ranking officials.

“I think (the attack) is connected with this,” Rudomakha told Reuters, adding the assailants had stolen the activists’ cameras. Rudomakha said he had sustained a concussion, a broken nose and broken teeth in the attack.

The regional branch of the Russian Interior Ministry, in a statement sent to Reuters, said authorities were investigating the attack by what it said were three assailants.

Members of the Environmental Watch on the North Caucasus have had run-ins with the authorities in the past.

Group member Yevgeny Vitishko, who campaigned against ecological damage from construction work for the 2014 Sochi Olympics, was sentenced to three years in prison after being convicted of damaging the regional governor’s property.

Russian civil society groups, including environmental organizations, have deplored what they say are efforts by the authorities to exercise more control over their activities.

Reporting by Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber; Editing by Mark Heinrich