Who is killing Putin's enemys

The Observer/Guardian examines the brutal killings of those who question authority and how it is used in Russia.


Despite the fact that Politkovskaya was articulate, attractive and accomplished, she was barred from appearing on television, which is the only way the vast majority of Russians get news. To the degree that a living woman could be airbrushed out of post-Soviet history, she had been. 'People call the newspaper,' she wrote, 'and send letters with one and the same question: "Why are you writing about this? Why are you scaring us? Why do we need to know this?"' She provided an answer as much for herself as for any reader: 'I'm sure this has to be done, for one simple reason: as contemporaries of this war, we will be held responsible for it. The classic Soviet excuse of not being there and not taking part in anything personally won't work. So I want you to know the truth. Then you'll be free of cynicism.'

On the afternoon of 7 October Politkovskaya drove to a supermarket near her mother's flat on the Frunzenskaya Embankment. Her daughter had planned to meet her there but was delayed. Nonetheless, as a surveillance camera at the store later showed, Politkovskaya was not alone. A young woman and a tall, slender man whose face was obscured by a baseball cap lurked in the aisles as she shopped. When Politkovskaya finished she drove home in her silver Vaz 2110 and parked a few feet from the entrance to her building. She took the tiny elevator up to her flat on the seventh floor and dropped two bags of groceries at the door. Then she went down to fetch the rest of her parcels. When the elevator opened on the ground floor, her killer was waiting. He shot her four times - the first two bullets piercing her heart and lungs, the third shattering her shoulder, with a force that drove Politkovskaya back into the elevator. He then administered what is referred to in Moscow, where contract killings have become routine, as the kontrolnyi vystrel - the control shot. He fired a bullet into her head from inches away. Then he dropped his weapon, a plastic 9mm Makarov pistol whose serial number had been filed away, and slipped into the darkening afternoon.


Since 1999, when Vladimir Putin, a career KGB officer, was, in effect, anointed as president by Boris Yeltsin, 13 journalists have been murdered in Russia. Nearly all the deaths took place in strange circumstances, and none of them has been successfully investigated or prosecuted. In July 2003 the investigative reporter Yuri Shchekochikhin, a well-known colleague of Politkovskaya at Novaya Gazeta, died of what doctors described as an 'allergic reaction'. Shchekochikhin, who became famous in the Gorbachev era for his reports on the rise of a new mafia, had been investigating allegations of tax evasion against people with links to the FSB, the post-Soviet KGB. Nobody ever explained what Shchekochikhin was allergic to, and his family is convinced he was poisoned. On 9 July 2004 Paul Klebnikov, the founding editor of the Russian edition of Forbes - who had made powerful enemies by investigating corruption among Russian business tycoons - was shot dead as he left his Moscow office.

There is much more. The rule of law has taken a holiday in Russia. Corruption exacts a high price from a society making everyone pay more for the benefit of the few. It is the distorts the market where the guy with the best product and service at the best price does not get the deal because someone with inferior products and services pays to make the deal. As more corruption takes place it becomes harder to hide it and those who might expose it become the targets of the corrupt.

Russians lived with corruption under communism for decades and they now have to live with it under the RICO government they now have. You would like to think they deserve better, but right now there are not enough who care enough to pull their heads out of the Vodka jug to do anything about. Corruption has left the Russian army with the low function dregs of the society.

Now they watch the people who care, get murdered without hope for justice.


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