Duat, who runs Ufa Blog (which seems to have mysteriously disappeared), sent me an email last week with the story about the how the murderers of Aleksandr Riukhin, an anti-fascist activist who was murdered in Moscow earlier this year, were convicted of “hooliganism.”
On 16 April, Riukhin and a friend, one T., were leaving an anti-fascist concert, when six skinheads attacked them near the Domodedovo metro. Riukhin died from several stabs to the chest and head, while T. received wounds to the legs and arms. The police arrested three of the skins in the summer, while the others became the subjects of an “international search.” It is suspected that the three fled to Kiev by train. According to the case, which was elaborated in a Live Journal post, the investigator “decided to ignore the majority of facts that confirm intentional character of the murder and its ideological motivation.” These facts include the discovery of racist and nationalist literature and weapons in the murders’ apartment which point to the perpetrators relations with racist groups like Format 18, the Slavic League, Anti-Antifa, and other groups known for attacks on members of the anti-fascist movement in Moscow region.
The story was also reported in this week’s Novaya gazeta.
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By Sean — 8 years ago
That both ends of the Russian political spectrum are using the beating of Kommersant journalist Oleg Kashin as clubs to bash each other should come as no surprise. It was only a matter of time before the unanimous condemnation of the attack and demand for justice by members of Russian civil society slipped back into old habits and familiar postures. A week after his savage beating Oleg Kashin’s transformation into a martyr for all seasons is complete.
But for a few days things seemed as if this was not the case. Sure the predictable ineptitude of the authorities remained. But Russian civil society appeared unified. Medvedev’s quick response and call for the perpetrators be caught and punished signaled a new attitude upon high. Even Russian television, which typically gives little attention to the plight of Russia’s journalists, led their news programs with the Kashin story. The reports on the state channels Pervyi, Rossiia 1, and NTV, according to Kommersant, were personally complied by the station heads. This hands on approach, says the business daily, “generally confirms that the Kremlin has taken control of the story.” State television even recognized that Kashin was attacked for his “professional activities,” in particular his reporting on “social and political topics, the activities of youth organizations and the scandal around Khimki forest, and even showed journalists picketing in his support.”
With attention like this “from above” it’s no wonder that one Russian blogger views Medvedev’s quick reaction was part of his bid for the Presidency in 2012. After all, such gestures tend to evoke some sense that a much deeper motive is at hand. “I, of course, don’t contend that Medvedev’s political strategists “ordered” Kashin’s [beating].” writes Sergei Ezhov. “But after giving it some thought, it’s possible. And Kashin is undoubtedly the best figure for this role.” I can’t agree with Ezhov’s conspiratorial logic. But one thing is clear, if the perpetrators are caught, it will certainly give Medvedev a boost among the liberals in civil society. That said, it is hard to dismiss something larger is at hand especially if you put Medvedev’s quick and forceful reaction to Kashin in the context of other recent moves in favor of liberal society.
If Medvedev’s reaction is part of a more long term strategy, he certainly can’t be scrutinized too harshly for it. Whatever warm fuzzy feelings emanating from the collective kumbaya on the part of Russia’s civil society were quickly dashed as politicos retreated into the comforts of partisanship. It took Russia’s liberal opposition mere days to insert Kashin as the refrain in their usual condemnations of the “Putin regime.” The usual suspects–Boris Nemtsov, Vladimir Milov, Ladimir Ryzhkov, and Mikhail Krasyanov–all laid the blame on the gray cardinal himself, Vlacheslav Surkov and by extension Putin and Medvedev. They believe that Kashin’s beating was a Surkov ordered Nashi operation. Though the use of soccer hooligans and other thugs is not out of the question, one must ask what exactly does the Kremlin have to gain from Kashin’s beating? Kashin was no political foe. It seems the Kremlin has very little to gain besides scoring a few brownie points if the perpetrators are caught. If history is any indication that tree isn’t going to bare any fruit.
When it comes to the opposition, I think Nemtsov’s opportunism in particular can be summed up with the following tweet from Ilya Azar: At the Friday’s picket in support of Kashin, “Nemtsov gave three interviews and left five minutes after he was done.”
Russia’s liberals, of course, aren’t the only ones using the Kashin beating to bash the other side. The pro-government website Politonline.ru has probably been one of the more vocal in damning the opposition and its use of “Kashin’s blood for political struggle.” Telling was the appearance of a supposed blog post Kashin wrote in 2005, where he feared that his death would serve as a weapon to bash the Putin system. He allegedly wrote:
What use am I. Moreover, let’s suppose they bump me off. It will be interesting who it will be of interest to because I didn’t expose nor fight with anyone. I worked humbly and devoted increased attention to personal PR. And of course, not necessarily some police fuck. I imagine that someone from the loudmouths [i.e. oppositionists] will create a site called pravdakashina.ru and will write on there how the bloody Putinist executioners killed Oleg Kashin, the hope of the free press–I honestly fear this happening. I don’t know if I’m doing the right thing by writing this openly, however, if anything [bad] happens, do not believe what [they] will write on that website about my head.
Premonition or propaganda? Well, someone has started the site olegkashin.ru. So if Kashin did write this in 2005, he either has the gift of clairvoyance, or the actions of Russian activist community are just easy to predict. Whether the passage is real or not, it is serving as a means to discredit the intentions of the opposition. Like their liberal opponents, outlets like Politonline.ru are quick to claim Kashin for themselves and paint him as a true believer in sovereign democracy.
Politonline.ru’s efforts go beyond this. In a rather clever move to further discredit Nemtsov, the site published a list of journalists killed during his stint as First Deputy Prime Minister from March 1997 to August 1998. Twelve journalists were wacked under Nemtsov’s watch, making his hemming and hollering ring rather hollow.
Then there is Nashi. The organization’s apparent sympathy for Kashin has quickly turned to its usual antics of mockery. In a move that is nothing but cynical, Nashi has offered to supply bodyguards drawn from their voluntary youth militias to “protect” journalists. Oh yeah I get it. Protect the Fourth Estate with the very same types of people who are (allegedly) hired to beat up them up. Good one. Nashi has also used the “canonization” of Kashin as a way to mock the opposition. Then there is what has become Nashi’s favor tool: lawsuits for “slander.” Vasilii Yakemenko, the head of the Russian Youth Department and Nashi founder, is suing Marat Gelman, Boris Nemtsov, and Yulia Latynina for slander because they suggested Yakemenko’s involvement in the Kashin beating. Molodaya gvardiia is planning on doing the same.
What all of this partisanship leaves to the wayside is why was Kashin beaten? Instead, like with other murdered or beaten journalists, Oleg Kashin has become yet another assault weapon in a much larger political battle. Perhaps here we should rethink the place of the beaten and murdered journalist in Russia. Many assume that killing journalists benefits the government, and Putin in particular. If so, that is only part of it. The benefits of such violence are distributed much wider. These journalists serve as martyrs of a much more malleable sort. They are not just symbols of the perils of being a journalist in Russia or a “pummeled Fourth Estate.” They are also the cynical truncheons Russian politicos use to bash each other. Sadly, both political extremes need this violence because it gives validity to their holy crusade to “save Russia” from the other. In this sense the cynical manipulation of attacks against Russian journalists in a rather morbid way forecloses the very social and political unity necessary to overcome it.
By Sean — 3 months ago
By Sean — 12 years ago
Twenty. This is the number of journalists the London Independent says have been murdered since Putin became president of Russia. Now whether the Kremlin is directly behind these crimes is difficult to say. In fact I am apt to say that it is not. There are enough nefarious gangsters, businessmen, regional chinovniki, and current and former chekisty to do the deed without a sanction from above. However, I do agree with the idea that the Putin is still culpable because as the Independent says, he is “presiding over a country where it appears that the murder of journalists goes unpunished.” Adding,
Few of the killings are as overtly political as the murder of Anna Politkovskaya, who was gunned down last October at the entrance to her apartment block. In that case it seemed clear that her death was sanctioned by someone powerful, who wanted her silenced. Most cases are much murkier, however; they can be seen as a brutal form of punishment for reporters who delve too deeply into Russia’s sinister intersection of business, organised crime and the state’s legal and security apparatus.
Working for a nationally known outlet such as Kommersant might be seen as some protection, though that did not save Ms Politkovskaya or two other journalists who worked for Novaya Gazeta, a fortnightly newspaper. She wrote that it received “visitors every day … who have nowhere else to bring their troubles, because the Kremlin finds their stories off-message, so that the only place they can be aired is in our newspaper”.
Pursuing corruption in the provinces, however, can be lonelier and even more dangerous. Two editors of a local newspaper in Togliatti, a city on the Volga east of Moscow, were murdered in succession. So was the director of the local TV station.
Death is not the only occupational hazard for reporters who show too much investigative zeal. Around 50 court cases are pursued against journalists every year in an attempt to muzzle them, while some 150 are seriously assaulted each year.
Here is the tragic list of the twenty:
- Ivan Safronov
Military affairs specialist for daily national newspaper ‘Kommersant’. Was investigating a Kremlin arms deal with the Middle East. Found dead on 2 March after ‘falling’ from a window in his Moscow home in suspicious circumstances.
- Anna Politkovskaya
Crusading investigative reporter specialising in Chechnya, attached to fortnightly national newspaper ‘Novaya Gazeta’. Shot dead in a contract killing outside her apartment block in Moscow on 7 October 2006.
- Vyacheslav Plotnikov
Reporter for a local TV channel in Voronezh. His body was found in a forest on 15 September 2006, dressed in someone else’s clothes. No signs of a violent death, but his colleagues are convinced that he was murdered.
- Yevgeny Gerasimenko
Investigative reporter on regional newspaper ‘Saratovsky Rasklad’ who had been looking into shady local business dealings. Found dead on 25 July 2006 in his flat, where he had been tortured and suffocated with a plastic bag.
- Alexander Pitersky
Presenter on the St Petersburg radio station Baltika, who sometimes covered criminal investigations. His body was found in his flat, where he had been stabbed to death, on 30 August 2005.
- Magomedzagid Varisov
A press commentator in his native Dagestan, where he also ran a think-tank, Varisov had criticised local politicians. Killed in a machine gun attack in Mahachkala, the capital of Dagestan, on 28 June 2005.
- Pavel Makeev
Cameraman for Puls, a local TV station in southern Russia. Died on 21 May 2005 while covering illegal street racing in the town of Azov. His car was rammed by an unknown vehicle and his camera and tapes taken.
- Paul Klebnikov
US citizen of Russian extraction. As editor of the Russian edition of ‘Forbes’ magazine, he put together the country’s first rich list and specialised in corruption investigations. Shot dead in a contract killing in Moscow on 9 July 2004.
- Aleksei Sidorov
The second editor of local newspaper ‘The Togliatti Overview’ to be murdered in as many years. He was stabbed in the chest with an ice pick or similar sharp object outside his apartment block on 9 October 2003.
- Yuri Shchekochikhin
Investigative journalist, liberal MP and deputy editor of ‘Novaya Gazeta’. Specialised in investigating corruption in the general prosecutor’s office. Died on 3 July 2003 after an unexplained allergic reaction. His colleagues believe he was poisoned.
- Dmitry Shvets
A senior executive at a local Murmansk TV station, TV-21 Northwestern Broadcasting. Had been highly critical of local officialdom. Shot dead outside the station’s offices on 18 April 2003.
- Valery Ivanov
Editor of ‘The Togliatti Overview’ and managing editor of the independent channel Lada-TV, specialising in crime and corruption in the local car industry. Shot dead in his car on 29 April 2002.
- Natalya Skryl
Business reporter on ‘Our Time’, a local newspaper based in Rostov-on-Don, investigating controversial dealings in a local metals plant. Died on her way home after being beaten with a heavy object on 8 March 2002.
- Eduard Markevich
Editor of ‘Novy Reft’, a local newspaper in the town of Reftinsky, Sverdlovsk region, who was critical of regional authorities. After a series of threatening phone calls, he was shot dead in the back on 19 September 2001.
- Adam Tepsurgayev
TV cameraman for Reuters who filmed exclusive footage of the conflict in Chechnya. Shot dead in the village of Alkhan-Kala on 23 November 2000 by masked gunmen who burst into his home.
- Sergey Ivanov
Director of the Lada-TV station in Togliatti. Showed an interest in the area’s notoriously corrupt car manufacturing business. Shot five times outside his apartment building on 3 October 2000.
- Iskandar Khatloni
Journalist investigating human rights abuses in Chechnya for the Tajik- language service of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Killed by an axe-wielding attacker in Moscow on 21 September 2000.
- Sergey Novikov
Senior executive at the Vesna radio station in Smolensk. Claimed to be able to prove corruption among high-ranking local officials. Shot dead on 26 July 2000, in the lobby of his apartment building.
- Igor Domnikov
Investigative reporter on ‘Novaya Gazeta’. Died on 16 July 2000 after being attacked with a hammer in the lobby of his Moscow apartment block. His newspaper believes his murder was a case of mistaken identity.
- Artyom Borovik
Senior executive at investigative magazine ‘Completely Secret’ that exposed the misdeeds of the rich and powerful. Died on 3 March 2000 in a plane crash that the authorities believe may not have been accidental.
- Ivan Safronov