One day later and Russia and world have reacted to the arrest of 10 suspects in Anna Politkovskaya’s murder. Most of the Russian media have led with the story. The Kremlin funded English language Russia Today provided an overview of the story and the subsequent international reaction. The popular daily Komsomolskaya pravda hyped the fact that one of its correspondents originally spotted the killer, reporting that he “conducted himself like a agent or an operational worker from [Russian] security forces.” One of those arrested, Pavel Riaguzov, served in the central administration of the Moscow region FSB. According to statements given to the press by FSB General-Lieutenant Aleksandr Kupriazhkin, Riaduzov has long been suspected of having criminal ties. KP wondered whether Riagunov was indeed the person their correspondent spotted. Moskovskii Komsomolets also focused on the Riaguzov angle, and like KP, pointed to his connections to criminal elements. “The Chekist allegedly provided wiretaps and details of Politkovskaya’s conversations.” Riaguzov’s lawyers called the accusations “complete nonsense.” Nezavisimaya gazeta focused on the Western media’s obsession with the claim that the murder might be connected to Boris Berezovsky.
But not all the Russian media is so tame or sensible. Writing in the ever critical Ezhednevnyi zhurnal, Iuliya Latynina, in a bold headline “A Trotskyist-Berezovskii Operation,” searches for the conspiracy behind the conspiracy. And sadly Stalin’s historical footprint always seems to reveal itself on these occasions. She asks why the findings about Politkovskaya murder were revealed to the public at this moment. She gives three answers. First, simply, the “shit already had began to ooze,” and the revelation about the arrests to the public was inevitable. There was no way to hide the fact that those arrested–two former chekisty, some police officers, and Chechens bandits–was going to go unnoticed. If the government didn’t construct a preemptive narrative, it was likely the public would have made their own conclusion. And Latynina thinks that this conclusion would be unpleasant for the authorities. “For example, the public could decide that security agents . . could hardly take orders from enemies of the regime, which could keep all of their business under lock and key, but easily take orders from persons who keep their business quiet in case of failure. I personally think that this version is the most believable.” By her logic the first rule of politics is: control the message.
Second reason: the case will die in the courts. The “lack of evidence” and “pressure.” This, Latynina thinks is the most unlikely.
Third, the announcement of the arrests is a preview of a “big autumn Presidential fight.” Taken with the bombing of the Neva Express and the arrest of Tambov mafia boss Vladimir Kumarin, finding Politkovskaya’s killers falls into a political context that Latynina thinks will “end Putin’s road to retirement.”
So much for the Prosecutor office’s request that “reporters be more accurate with various kinds of information from unofficial sources and refrain from publishing the reports that may hinder investigation.”
Latynina’s comments remind me a bit like Freud’s death drive. Either people like her are so traumatized by living where the leader is eternal that they can’t imagine anything different even if they oppose said leader, or the desire for say Putin to leave office is so great it doubles back as a perverted desire that he will stay. Wouldn’t everything Latynina thinks about Russia be undermined if there is a peaceful transition of power through, albeit flawed, elections? After all, she might find more comfort in a verified ego rather than in one faced with the horrific notion that what it thinks no longer conforms to reality. Where would she be if the great Evil Putin wasn’t there to give her purpose?
Since everyone is speculating about the timing of the arrests, there is one coincidence that can’t be ignored. The arrests come a few days before Politkovskaya’s birthday. She would have turned 49 on August 30.
The truth of the matter, however, is that the arrests have revealed something far more disturbing than any grand conspiracy to manufacture a way for Putin to remain in office. As Novaya gazeta’s editorial board noted in a statement on the arrests, the investigation shows that elements in Russia’s security organs and the criminal underworld have cooperative ties. How high up this goes or whether they are rogue or connected to the Presidential administration is unknown. Either way such elements are likely to out last this and future administrations.