MOSCOW - ASSAILANTS on Saturday gravely wounded a leading journalist for Russian newspaper Kommersant in an attempted murder, the latest such attack in a country notorious for its media safety record, officials said.

The respected daily said in a statement that two attackers beat Oleg Kashin with a hard object outside his apartment block in central Moscow in the early hours of Saturday, forcing doctors to put him in an induced coma.

The investigative committee of prosecutors in a statement confirmed the circumstances of the attack and said a criminal probe had been opened into attempted murder. 'Kashin was seriously wounded and hospitalised. For the next few days, he will be in an artificial coma,' Kommersant said.

The journalist received fractures to his lower and upper jaw and concussion, it said. Both his shins were broken and his fingers and skull were also wounded.

'It's clear that the people who did this did not like what he says and what he writes,' Kommersant's chief editor Mikhail Mikhailin told Moscow Echo radio.

'What happened to him is linked to his professional activities,' he added. 'I will put pressure on the investigation so that this monstrous crime is solved.' Mr Mikhailin noted that the attackers had not bothered to steal the telephone, money and documents that Kashin had on him at the time.

Journalist in coma after attack