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Since Vladimir Putin came to power in Russia the cause of “Law and Order” has not been high on the “Must do” agenda whilst outwardly the State frowns upon the illegal activities of its citizens its inaction condones the theory held by many in the west that it is still a country that protects those who “Know people” or have the money to make things happen. It is a place where “Free speech” is a myth that is one of those “Quaint” western ideas that can only be read about and never practised by anyone that subscribes to the dogma that there is a “New Russia”.

In the past six years twenty media related deaths have given rise to the concept that it is “Unwise” to say what is thought because the offence given to those in the twilight world of criminality, political corruption or state sponsored intrigues could be “Terminal” for whoever is foolhardy enough to put into words, voice an opinion, film or set into print the “Mokita” [that which everyone knows but that which no one dare speak of] in modern day Russia. So far twenty people have been “Silenced” permanently because they dared to formulate the opinion that on the streets of Russia it is not the Russian State that is in control of the vast empire that was once known as the U.S.S.R. but a collection of “Modern day warlords” that pull the unseen strings of criminality, political chicanery, business dealings on an international scale and murderous intent both domestic and foreign.
There are in Russia today journalists that do not accept that it has to be this way and their investigations are pointed directly at exposing such skulduggery to the scrutiny of the Russian public which is emerging from a period when it was prudent to keep silent if something was not right. The journalists in question may well have attained the label of “Dissident” in the days before the USSR imploded but in today’s climate they are largely crusaders bent upon the eradication of corruption and injustice. Those who may have become the target of their investigations do not share their motives and whilst the “Russian State” was once the feared opponent of an individuals requirement for freedom of expression it has been replaced by an enemy that is both subversive and clandestine and holds the Russian people and the Russian State to ransom.
The significant aspect of the deaths of the twenty journalists over the past seven years is not held in the subject matter of their investigations prior to their deaths though it is known that they were working upon a range of topics, which would have lifted the tightly secured lid upon the involvement of criminal activity, political corruption and a blatant disregard for Russian law. It is held in the fact that no one has ever been arrested or even charged with any of the murders. It is asking too much to believe that they were not murders because whilst several were shot in plain view of anyone who was there some were killed in their homes either by shooting or stabbing and at least one was suffocated with a plastic bag. In many cases there was evidence of torture suggesting that the reasons for their deaths was not only to erase what information had been gathered but also to ensure that the trail could be followed and completely wiped out. The disturbing aspect of their deaths is the lack of vehement action by the Russian police, it is as though the death of a journalist has come to be seen as an occupational hazard of the calling but to loose one or two journalists to violent retribution might be seen as unfortunate to loose twenty is stretching the limits of coincidence too far.
In the west it is accepted that the media will intrude wherever there is a story to be chased and though it can be troublesome the line is firmly drawn before homicide is considered but it has been known in extreme cases. In Russia the norm appears to be “First kill the journalist that will not stop digging” then wait and see if anyone notices.
In the west careers have been made from investigative journalism, in Russia the same practise can and has ended careers permanently.

So what can bring jeopardy to a journalist? What manner of investigation carries the “Death penalty” on the streets of Moscow or St.Petersburg or any Russian city where Business, criminal or political interests have gained sufficient power influence and wealth to ensure that their activities are kept from the public interest?

Beginning with the most recent a brief look at what the now deceased were working upon seems a chronological indictment of the demise of law and order in Russia.

Ivan Safronov, was investigating arms deals between the Kremlin and the Middle East. He “Fell” out of a window in his home on March 2nd 2007.

Anna Politkovskya, was investigating a theory that The Chechnya problems were Orchestrated by a department of The FSS/FSB [formerly KGB] One of her sources/co investigators was Ex KGB Alexander      Litvinenko who was poisoned with a radioactive isotope in London. Anna was shot dead outside her apartment in Moscow shortly before Litvinenko’s death. A common source to both was an Italian arms trader with strong Kremlin links. She was shot on 7th October 2006, the crime had the hallmarks of a “Contract Killing”.

Vyacheslav Plotnikov, A TV reporter for a channel in Voronezh, his body was found in a forest. The corpse was dressed in clothes that were not his own. Murder was suspected but not investigated. His body was found on 15th September 2006.

Yevgeny Gerasimenko, investigating the seamier side of business dealings for a regional newspaper. Found dead in his apartment, tortured and then suffocated with a plastic bag. He was found 25th July 2006.

Alexander Pitersky, A radio presenter in St.Petersburg, investigating criminal activities.Found dead in his apartment,stabbed to death on 30th August 2005.

Magomed Varisov,A press commentator that had criticised local politicians.Killed in a machine gun attack on 28th June 2005.

Pavel Makeev, A cameraman working on illegal street racing. Died on 21st May 2005 when his car was rammed by another vehicle. His camera and footage were stolen.

Paul Klebnikov,Russian editor of Forbes Magazine,specialised
in the investigation of alleged corruption,complier of the Russian rich list.Shot dead in Moscow 9th July 2004,believed to be a contract killing.

Aleksi Sidarov,The second editor of a local newspaper
“The Togliatti Overview” stabbed in the chest with what was believed to be an“Ice pick”outside his apartment on 9th October 2003.His predecessor Valery Ivanov was shot dead on 29th April 2002 whilst investigating car industry corruption.
Yuri Shchekochikhin  A liberal MP and deputy editor of Noaya Gazeta [same paper that employed Anna Politkovskya]investigator of corruption inside the General Prosecutors Office.
He died in similar circumstances to Alexander Litvinenko believed poisoned 3rd July 2003.

Dmitry Shvets, A TV station executive in Murmansk
[near where the Krurshk submarine sank]an outspoken critic of the establishment.Shot dead as he stood outside his offices on 18th April 2003.

Natalya Skryl,Reporter investigating dealings at a metals plant, attacked and died on her way home, beaten with what was believed to be a heavy metal object on 8th March 2002.

Eduard Markevich,Newspaper editor an outspoken critic of local and regional Authorities. Shot dead on 19th September 2001.

Adam Tepsurgaynev,A Reuters cameraman, filmed a great deal on the Chechenya conflict and its effects.
Shot dead by masked gunmen in his home on 23rd November 2000.

Sergey Ivanov,TV station director in Togliatti investigating corruption in the car industry shot five times outside his home on 3rd October 2000.

Iskandar Khationi,Investigative journalist working on human rights abuse in Chechnya.
Hacked to death with an axe in Moscow on 21st September 2000.

Sergey Novikov,Radio station executive investigating corruption among local high ranking officials. When he made it known that he could prove his suspicions he was shot dead in his apartment block on 26th July 2000.

Igor Domnikov,Investigative reporter for Novaya Gazeta. Attacked with a hammer in his apartment block, died on 16th July 2000.

Artyom Borovik,Investigative magazine executive for “Completely secret”. Previously exposed the indiscretions of financial dealings among the Russian rich and powerful.
Died in a plane crash on 3rd March 2000.
Though it was said to be an accident the authorities remain unconvinced.

In a land that was once an authoritarian state that controlled every aspect of daily life it is perhaps difficult to accept the lawless nature of the modern day descendant of the largest communist empire that the world has ever seen. It is also beyond belief that commercial, criminal and pseudo political have gained such a stranglehold on the country in so short a time. If the current situation in the former USSR was solely due to the expansion of the criminal thiefdoms there would be a commitment to improve the lot of the average Russian citizen but there is a point where the political corruption, the interests of vast commercial interests and the realms of criminal warlords all overlap to form an impenetrable barrier against detection.

In Vladimir Putin’s Russia that overlap has been in place for too long and power, influence and above all money is now buying protection for such enterprises that the Russian people cannot afford. There is a law for the political animal. There is a law for commercial empire builders. There is a law for the criminal warlords and these various brands of law are available at a price.
There is also a law for the other 95% of the Russian people who are kept silent by the deprivation of knowledge they would have had if the same law applied to everyone.
It is perhaps a footnote from history that depicts a similar chain of events in Russia almost one hundred years ago, the “Money tricks” of Karl Marx are as clear now as they were in October 1917 on the Moscow streets. How long will it be before The Potemkin rises again? [Potemkin is a Russian ufomism for fake]


Posted: March 13, 2007 ,   Modified: March 13, 2007

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