Source AP ©

BBC employees attacked in Moscow

British Broadcasting Corp's employees have been attacked in Moscow over the past two weeks. The company 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.

One employee, a Russian citizen who works for the BBC's Central Asian Service, was assaulted Nov. 24 in the Moscow subway by assailants yelling racist slurs. The attackers were arrested by police, Connors said.

A day later, a Russian staff member 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 Friday, another Russian staff member 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.

Relations between Russia and Britain have plummeted in recent months amid a series of spy scandals and tit-for-tat diplomat explusions and chilling 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 Russian identified by British prosecutors as the main suspect in last year's poisoning of dissident former KGB agent Alexander Litvinenko. Russia has refused, citing a constitutional prohibition.

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

Also Wednesday, members of the Kremlin-backed youth group Nashi resumed their protest outside the British Embassy in Moscow, demanding that Ambassador Anthony Brenton be recalled and accusing him of funding Russian opposition groups.

Brenton in past months has been heckled at speaking engagements and trailed by members of the group who follow him with banners, shout abuse at him and block his car.

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