Russian authorities announced yesterday that the investigation into the murder of Anna Politkovskaya is complete. Or at least one leg of it. Three suspects will be charged with being accomplices in the murder: Sergey Khadzhikurbanov, a former detective with the Moscow Department to Combat Organized Crime, and the brothers Makhmudov, Dzhabrail and Ibrahim. All three are Chechens. In addition, to the three, Pavel Ryaguzov, a former senior detective for the Moscow FSB is accused of abusing his position. Ryaguzov provided Politkovskaya’s home address to an old friend, Shamil Buraev. He passed the information to a childhood friend Lom-Ali Gaitukaev, who then gave it to the Makhmudovs, who are his nephews. What a tangled web we weave when we practice to deceive.
Ryaguzov claims he didn’t know Politkovskaya’s murder was in the making. As for Gaitukaev, he was convicted earlier this year for the attempted murder of Gennady Korban, a Ukrainian financier with the company Privat. He will sit in a cell for 13 years. Finally, the third Makhmudov brother, Rustam, is still wanted by the police.
As you can see from the above list of people and their connections, the Russian authorities have a web of players, but still no killer or the murder’s contractor.
Sergei Sokolov, the editor of Politkovskaya’s paper, Novaya gazeta, stated that if you read the announcement closely, you’ll notice that the investigation is only completed into the named individuals. The overall inquiry is far from over since the killer and contractor still remain on the loose. This view was reiterated in an editorial on the paper’s website.
Central to Novaya‘s statement is who, for what purpose, and more importantly in whose interests was information about the investigaton leaked which might have allowed the killer, who is believed to either be Rustam Makdmudov or closely connected to him, to flee Russia and the murder’s contractor to cover his footprints? Back in April, Life.ru published a photo of Rustam Makhmudov, which Novaya believes was done intentionally to warn him that the police were on the hunt. And where might the source of the leak reside? Why in none other than someone in the FSB.
As for the truth of how this last assertion will pan out, that remains to be seen.
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By Sean — 9 years ago
On Tuesday, it looked as if the Anna Politkovskaya trial would be open to journalists. Today, the judge Yevgeny Zubov, decided at the last moment that it would be closed. The reason he gave was that the jury refused to participate if the trial was open to the media. Zubkov had already warned that he would close the proceedings if “a juror made a single request.”
Nevertheless, there are those that smell something rotten in the Moscow Military District Court. Karinna Moskalenko, the non-poisoned lawyer for the Politikovskaya family, was disappointed, but not surprised. Is anyone? He says that the Zubkov had “not offered convincing evidence of the need to bar the public for the safety of the jury.” “I could expect this is there were a threat to the jury,” she told reporters. Novaya gazeta noted that,
It’s notable that a day earlier when the jurors were sworn in, not a single one spoke out about their safety or suspicions regarding concern for future pressure or threats. Moreover, none of the 12 jurors said anything about having facts on that nature.
The procecution deined that the closing of the court had anything to do with government pressure from above. After all, its representatives, Vera Pashkovskaya and Iuliia Safina were all prepared to address the media, which had been assembled for a press conference a mere forty minutes before the trial opened.
So who knows? The truth of the matter is that some will believe that someone above intervened, others will say that there is a real possibility that jurors could be threatened. Both are possible, though I have the say the latter is more probable given the nature of the case and the type of people involved. The funny thing is that the same people who think there is a government hand in the court’s closing are the very same people who would blame the government if a juror was threatened, or worse, ended up dead. Either way, a conspiracy will be conjured. Given this and the amount of international attention this case is getting, if I was Zubkov I would probably play it safe too.
The Politkovskaya trial is not the only incident hitting the Russian media world. This week, Moscow prosecutors sent a warning to Newsweek Russia over the possibility that its September 29-October 5 issue might incite interethnic and religious strife between Christians and Muslims. The articles is question are “Who Goes to Mosque with Us” and “Mosque Carriers.” The complaint was filed by the Russian Mufti Council because the issue contained a reprint of the cartoon of Mohammed which sparked proetsts in 2005.
One wouldn’t think that ethnic strife is a real problem given the results of Levada Center’s recent poll on multi-ethnic tension in Russia. According to its findings, 26 perecent rarely and 58 percent never feel any ethnic hostility woward others. Similar percentages were given for the question: Do you at the present moment feel any hostility toward people of a different nationality?”
Still, the visage of the Prophet Mohammad is not the only thing the Russian media has to be careful reporting about. Apparently, so is the economic crisis. In Sverdlovsk, the prosecutor began a check of their local media for disseminating information that might “destabilize the [economic] situation in the region.” Namely, according to Timma Bobina, the head assistant to the prosecutors office, “We were assigned to check information about media attacks via the Internet on credit organizations in Yekaterinburg. If we establish evidence that the law was broken, we can follow up with disciplinary measures, and even criminal punishment against the perpetrators.”
Sverdlovsk isn’t the only region going through such a “check.” Kommersant reports that all of Russia’s regions will look into how local media is reporting on local banks. According to prosecutors, customers in the Far East received an SMS saying that Dalkombank and Vladivostok banks were going bankrupt. In three days, clients withdrew $2.4 million rubles. In Yekaterinburg local media started a panic when it reported that Severnaya Bank, Bank 24.ru, and Ural Bank were to undergo “reconstruction and development.” Apparently the economic crisis has sent many Russians into a panic to withdrawal their savings from banks.
Something must be up because there has been a rash of muggings of people carrying large sums of cash in Moscow. The Moscow Times reports,
City police on Tuesday alone registered four separate thefts from car drivers of amounts ranging from 300,000 rubles ($10,900) to 3 million rubles ($109,000), state-run Vesti-24 said in a report posted on its web site.
“Police have noted that since the start of the crisis, such crimes have become more common,” Vesti-24 reported. “This is because people are carrying large amounts of cash. Criminals are taking advantage of this.”
Four people attacked the driver of a Jeep Grand Cherokee that had stopped at a traffic light at 1:30 p.m. Tuesday on Aviamotornaya Ulitsa in southeastern Moscow, injuring him with a hammer and baseball bats before taking a bag containing 300,000 rubles, police said.
At about the same time, three men grabbed a bag with 3 million rubles in it from a 32-year-old sitting in a car on Denisovsky Pereulok, near Baumanskaya metro station in central Moscow, before making off in a getaway car, according to police.
On Tuesday evening, three men stopped a car on Slavyansky Bulvar in central Moscow and snatched a bag containing 500,000 rubles from the 45-year-old driver.
Finally, the near death beating of Mikhail Beketov is hitting the international press, as it well should. Provincial reporters bear the brunt of the violence against journalists in Russia. They’re easy targets because they have few resources, little notoriety, and most importantly, less of an international spotlight. A glance at the Defense of Glasnost’s list of attacks on and killings of Russian journalists shows that the vast majority occur in the provinces.
Beketov has had his legs amputated and now lies in a coma with peices of his skull stuck in his brain. According to a friends Beketov had been recieving threats weeks before his beating. “He told us about a week before he was attacked that he had been informed that an order to kill him had been taken out,” says Lyudmila Fedotova, a close friend. The hospital doesn’t seem to be a safe place for him either. Fedotova also said that despite being in a coma, “he was receiving telephone threats even as he was being operated on.” Callers promised that they would eventually kill Beketov.
If there is anything good out of this, it’s that the brutal attack on Beketov has woken up the Public Chamber. In response to the attack, the body plans to create a center for the defense of journalists. Whether this will actually do anything to protect journalsists or even raise Russia’s low standing among international organizations that monitor media freedom remains to be seen. Given the lackadaisical manner the Russian government tends to have toward violence against journalists, we should be happy that at least this time they took some notice, and perhaps even some action.Post Views: 284
By Sean — 9 years ago
I was reading Amy Knight’s review of Letter to Anna: The Story of Journalist Politkovskaya’s Death and there were those two words again: “fierce critic.” This phrase has become a mantra; a verbal medal pinned on those who oppose the Russian government. For them, getting “fierce critic” following your name is like winning an Oscar for dissidence.
But where does this phrase come from? What is the history of its use?
Interestingly, the first use of “fierce critic” in regard to Russia occurred in the Economist in 1975. In “Poland: Gierek’s get well card,” “fierce critic” wasn’t even reserved for a Russian or a Soviet dissident. Olof Palme, the then Swedish Prime Minister, won the honor for being a “fierce critic of the present Czech regime.” Like so many fierce critics of Russia or their satellites, Palme was assassinated while exiting a movie theater in 1986. The murder was never solved.
The next notable fierce critic of the Soviet Union/Russia was none other than Svetlana Alliluyeva, the daughter of Stalin. In a short article in the Advertister in 1897, her biographical sketch included, “She defected from the USSR in 1967 and went to the US, where she became a fierce critic of the Soviet regime.”
The phrase, “fierce critic,” came into wider use in tempests of the revolutions in 1989-91. Fierce critics were coming out the proverbial woodwork. “Fierce critics of Lenin and communist ideology” were holding symposiums at the Soviet Academy of Sciences. All sorts of “fierce critics” were returning to Russia with wide-eyed and bushy tailed dreams of freedom and democracy. But the granddaddy “fierce critic” of the day was Boris Yeltsin. It is hard to find his name mentioned in 1990 without the title attached to him. Yeltsin was a “fierce critic of the lack of radical reforms” and a “fierce critic of President Mikhail S. Gorbachev.”
By the next year, however, fierce critics took on a whole new face in the new Russia. Now the fierce critics were primarily those “hardliners” who opposed the economic shock therapy of Yegor Gaidar. However, after Yeltsin had tanks bombard the White House, Russia’s fierce critics seemed to all but disappear. Fierce critic now lacked a singular, unifying face. Granted, there were a few in the early days of the first Chechen War, where fierce critics lobbed critical verbiage at how Yeltsin prosecuted the war and for the conflict’s human rights abuses. But there was no one personage who personified the fierce critic that dazzled the West in the old communist days. True, the Chechen War may have irked the sensibilities of many Western liberals, but Yeltsin was their guy and elevating one Russian to that vaulted place seemed politically imprudent. Perhaps this is the reason so many of the fierce critics of the time faded into obscurity. General Alexander Lebed, Grigory Yavlinsky, Sergei Kovalyov, Lev Rokhlin, and Galina Starovoitova have all landed either literally or figuratively in the dustbin of history. I guess one should note that of the five listed, three of them are now dead.
The phrase “fierce critic” didn’t get a fully reanimated until Putin became president in 2000. His war against the oiligarchs spawned a whole new crop of fierce critics. Vladimir Gusinsky was the first. Gusinsky used his Media-Most to hammer the Kremlin in the hope of rattling the new president’s cage. Rattle it did. So much so that Gusinsky was suddenly arrested and imprisoned for fraud. The charges were eventually dropped but the message was clear. Upon his release, he hightailed it out of Russia to Israel. He was joined shortly thereafter by former Kremlin Godfather turned fierce critic, Boris Berezovsky. Perhaps both knew all too well the fate of some other fierce critics before them.
Nevertheless, the Western media seemed to have found their darling fierce critic in Berezovsky or one of his proxies like Ivan Rybkin. Berezovsky’s name was often bestowed with the title even when he faced extradition trial in London. In the end, Berezovsky was a difficult pill to swallow. Cunning, crooked, and clownish, BAB could never barricade all the skeletons in his closet. All his talk about democracy fell hollow as Berezovsky just couldn’t hide his true face. BAB needed a proxy. He found one in Ivan Rybkin.
Ironically, it was Rybkin, not Berezovsky, who would set the archetype for the fierce critic of the 21st century. With Rybkin, the fierce critic became a more heroic figure, a symbol of the liberal Russian looking to risk his or her life for the Cause. This fierce critic also contained some vestiges of Yeltsin. Namely, he or she was someone the West could identify with. This was something that the fierce critics of the 1990s, most of which being crusty Soviet dissidents and Russian nationalists, didn’t have. Moreover, the new fierce critic didn’t necessary earn the title by his words alone. No, the fierce critic of the Putin era would be one the state, i.e. Putin, struck against using his shadowy FSB agents. The fierce Putin critic was armed with the rhetoric of democracy and free speech and spoke it with sincerity. His foes deployed kidnapping, poison, assassins, and other James Bond props.
The fierce critic’s new life started in February 2004, when Rybkin, who was running for the Russian Presidency with Berezovsky’s backing, alleged that his five day disappearance was the result of being kidnapped and drugged by FSB agents. In a press conference held after his reemergence in Kiev, Rybkin told reporters that his captors informed him that he the target of a “special operation.” “Then they showed me a revolting videotape with my participation and they told me it was a plan to compromise me and force me to be co-operative,” he explained. “After what happened in Kiev, I am convinced that this election is a game without rules and it can end for me without ever beginning.” He dropped his bid for the presidency a month later. Fierce critic he was. He just didn’t have the necessary fortitude.
By 2006, the phrase “fierce critic” appeared to make another interesting discursive shift. No longer was it applied to living critics of Putin. Now only the dead were honored with fierce critic. For example, Anna Politkovskaya, who is probably the most undisputed fierce critic, was really only given the title after she was gunned down in December 2006. In fact, Politikovskaya’s murder was so heinous that being a mere fierce critic of the Kremlin no longer sufficed. To the Guardian and the Independent she was now Putin’s fiercest critic.
Politikovskaya being a genuine fierce critic is difficult to dispute. Perhaps this is why she got the superlative. Still, the fiercest critic was not the earliest example of the posthumous fierce critic. That honor was reserved for none other than Alexander Litivineko. This postmortem fierce critic was virtually unknown before he became an irradiated, decaying living corpse. There is no record of Litvinenko ever being referred to as a fierce critic or really a critic of any kind until he was poisoned. Here are some typical examples of how Litvinenko was referred to after his poisoning:
“Alexander Litvinenko, a former colonel in the Russian secret service and a fierce critic of President Vladimir Putin, was seriously ill under armed guard at a London hospital last night.” The Sunday Telegraph, 11/19/2006.
“Mr Litvinenko, 43, a fierce critic of the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, suffered a heart attack on Wednesday night and his condition had been deteriorating rapidly.” The Guardian, 11/24/2006.
“Mr. Litvinenko, a former K.G.B. officer, had fled Russia and became a fierce critic of Mr. Putin’s Kremlin.” The NY Times, 12/15/2006.
Even as late as a few days ago, the Courier Mail wrote: “Litvinenko, who was also a fierce critic of Mr Putin, died from polonium poisoning in a case which severely strained relations between Moscow and London.” 10/16/2008. The article was about the poisoning of Karinna Moskalenko.
Luckly for Moskalenko, her alleged poisoning didn’t get her honor of being called a “fierce critic.” So far she’s merely a critic. The Western media only reserves adjectives for the dead.Post Views: 359