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Friday, August 31, 2007

EDITORIAL: Who Killed Anna?


Who Killed Anna?

"We think the prosecutor-general's announcement was premature, as not everyone has been arrested by a long way. The question of the person who ordered this killing has not been worked out in full - the interpretation of the prosecutor-general is more political than judicial. Our names of those who organized the murder coincide with the official investigation. But the identity of the person who ordered the murder does not coincide."

Those are the words of Novaya Gazeta's deputy editor Sergei Sokolov, as quoted by ABC News and the Moscow Times. Sokolov was responding to the announcement by the Russian prosecutor of ten arrests, which led to four suspects being charged with complicity in the killing of his colleague Anna Politkovskaya. Dimitry Muratov, the paper's editor in chief, told the Independent: "We are absolutely amazed that they have openly stated they know who ordered the crime before the investigation has even been completed." Igor Yakovenko, secretary-general of the Russian Union of Journalists, echoed Muratov: "It's worrying that, even before the investigation has been officially completed, they are pointing the finger at people abroad."

What are they talking about? They're talking about Prosecutor Yuri Chaika's statement, announcing the arrests, that they represented a group of persons hired by someone living outside Russia who wanted to "destabilize the situation in the country. . . and return to the previous ruling system, when money and oligarchs decided everything." Obviously, he meant exiled oligarch Boris Berezovsky, whom the Kremlin has already blamed for the killing of Alexander Litvinenko. And Chaika was not content to stop there. As the Independent reports: "He also linked the group to the killings of Andrei Kozlov, the corruption-fighting banker who was shot dead last year, and the Forbes magazine editor Paul Klebnikov, killed in 2004."

In an article in Novaya Gazeta, Sokolov made his position clear (we've edited his text slightly for English fluency from the original translation):

Ten people have been arrested on suspicion of the involvement in the murder of Anna Politkovskaya. Announcing the arrests, an official statement was made that this crime has been solved.

This is not so.

First, not all involved have been arrested.

Second, the guilt of those arrested is yet to be proved. Our own investigation allows us to assume that the arrested people were actually involved in the murder to some degree, but a great deal of routine work remains before the prosecutors (interrogations and searches) before they will be ready to try the case, we we don't believe will happen before the end of this year.

Third, the question of what client ordered murder be carried out by those arrested is yet to be answered.

Fourth, and most important, a revelation to the media was organized because someone had a wish to gain something and someone wanted to prevent investigation from establishing all the circumstances of the contract murder of the journalist, and this leak has complicated the whole situation. From the day that the arrests were announced, starting from 27 August in the Prosecutor’s Office, in the interior ministry and at the FSB, everything has been confused – the names of the suspects, the circumstances of the arrest, their past criminal records. It may seem that perhaps it is the client and client’s protectors who have caused all this fuss.

Even those arrested did not know each other's identities before 27 August, the date of the press conference that featured the statements of the Prosecutor General and various special services officers. And those who are still at large certainly did not know the full list of the arrested. Now those people who remain at liberty can guess the main direction of the investigation and they will have opportunities to escape. The first arrests were made on 13 August, and they were planned and prepared carefully. There was no leak and the investigators planned to make unexpected confrontations, interrogations and lineups The lawyers of those who had been detained were warned against any breaches of the investigation's secrecy. Now it appears that all those measures were in vain. It seems that someone had a wish to make the current list of suspects final and, besides, not to allow any other crimes committed by those arrested to come to light. That's probably because the list of the involved in those other cases could be rather unexpected.

So Kremlin foes drop like ducks at a shooting gallery, and it turns out that they were all killed . . . by another Kremlin foe, the one the Kremlin can't reach by any other means than convincing the world he's a mass murderer? Only someone totally cut off from reality, a fully-realized neo-Soviet man, could possibly think he could get away with making a statement as outrageous as this -- even if it was solely aimed at domestic consumption. But nobody should be surprised to find that there are still plenty of such people in the world, eager to lap up the Kremlin's propaganda like cream and help recreate the USSR. After all, how else could a proud KGB spy ever have come to power in Russia?

For instance, one of the Kremlin's most sycophantic bag men, Charles Ganske of Russia Blog, has written:
Here at Russia Blog, we have declined to speculate on the outcome of these criminal cases before hard evidence is presented - unlike the many media outlets that immediately accused the Russian government of "getting away with murder" and of being "the enemy" last year after Alexander Litvinenko's sensational and public death from radiation poisoning.
Then guess what he writes next:
In terms of motives, it's no secret that Anna Politkovskaya was a staunch critic of the Putin Administration. It's also not a secret that in his book, Godfather of the Kremlin, Paul Klebnikov had publicly accused Boris Berezovsky of ordering the contract killings of his business rivals during the Nineties, and of having direct connections to terrorist groups operating in Chechnya.
So much for his promise not to speculate. His post is chock full of speculation that anyone and everyone, except the Kremlin, killed Anna (just note the length of his sentence noting the Kremlin's motive compared to the length of the one letting the Kremlin off the hook!). Ganske carefully avoids mentioning that, as reported by his employer Forbes magazine, at the time of his death, Klebnikov "was believed to have been investigating a complex web of money laundering involving a Chechen reconstruction fund, reaching into the centers of power in the Kremlin and involving elements of organized crime and the FSB (the former KGB)." So in fact, he was threatening the Kremlin power structure just like Politkovskaya, Litvinenko and Kozlov.

Taking a page right out of the Soviet playbook, Ganske then claims, totally without any attempt at substantiation:
"The fact is that the number of business-related murders and killings of journalists in Russia has actually declined since the 1990s."
He actually expects people to just take his word for this. It's simply amazing that the blogosphere allows this nasty Russophile propaganda to continue. We demand that Ganske source this statement, and prove that political murder has declined in Russia under Vladimir Putin. And if he can't, then we demand an apology and retraction. The blogosphere should enforce this demand so as to maintain some semblance of professional standards.

Ganske is only part of a concerted propaganda onslaught by the Kremlin and its sympathizers -- and those who have simply been suckered by them. For example, the Strata-Sphere blog (operated by a Pat Buchanan clone eager to avoid U.S. "entanglements") totally ignores the statements quoted above from Novaya Gazeta, and quotes out of context a different declaration from Muratov, that:
“We are fully satisfied with the way the investigation proceeded,” said Dmitry Muratov, Novaya Gazeta’s editor in chief. “It was an honest, unbiased and efficient investigation. What’s more, we fully cooperated with the investigators and they didn’t hide anything from us. We know everything the investigators know, and they know everything we know,” he said. “This is why the authorities couldn’t hide the results of the investigation even if they wanted to.”
It's hard to tell whether this is just ignorance or outright duplicity. Strata-Sphere then opines:
This is big news which should up end the conventional wisdom that Putin is the dangerous leader. It is turning out those in exile and desperate to get back into power are the ones who would use murder as a propaganda tool. And if this is the case, then why would they not use nuclear material smuggled through London to disrupt Russia and begin the take over of Russia one such Oligarch, Boris Berezovsky, has openly called for.
It's big manufactured news, classic Soviet propaganda. Novaya Gazeta has said that it feels the Kremlin has arrested the correct people in terms of the actual killers, but it has also said that it doesn't feel the conclusions it has reached about who hired those killers are accurate. Strata-Sphere chooses to simply ignore this basic fact, exactly as the KGB would do if it were writing his article, as well as all other facts that clearly show the Kremlin's guilt. It's propaganda of this kind that deflected our attention from the rise of Soviet dictatorship in Russia the first time. Are we going to let this exact same thing happen again? Even proud athiest and communist Sean Guillory, who detests Berezovsky, America and capitalism itself, doesn't believe Berezovsky engineered all these killings -- only real extremists like Russia Blog and Strata-Sphere go that far.

Strata-Sphere also chooses to ignore the British goverment's formal conclusion, after a full-scale investigation, that Alexander Litvinenko was murdered in a state-sponsored assassination (as well as Russia's stonewalling of the extradition of the alleged killer), asking "why is the UK still sticking by Berezovsky?" and "is Britian being played here?" as if that conclusion had never been made. SS quotes a KGB officer who is now in the Russian Duma blaming Berezovsky, but he ignores the KGB defectors who have blamed the Kremlin. And SS also chooses to ignore the recent ruling by the Swiss Supreme Court that the Kremlin railroaded oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky, its chief political rival, into prison and stole his assets. In other words, SS is engaging in propaganda. Read the SS post and ask yourself: How would this have been different if the KGB had been the author?

Strata-Sphere does, at least, quote Muratov's expression of shock that the Kremlin would blame Berezovsky before the investigation had even been completed, but it seems unable to understand the words it is quoting out of context. They don't make sense unless you have the additional material quoted above, and Strata-Sphere's attempt to analyze them ends up being pure gibberish: "Who wouldn’t be ‘absolutely amazed’ when their preconceptions prove to be in error?" Strata-Sphere speaks as if it is incapable of having false preconceptions, although it brags about having never believed the Kremlin was guilty, and it ignores the fact that Muratov is affirming his prior concern that Politkovskaya was targeted by forces friendly to the Kremlin.

The net result is that Strata-Sphere is saying we must believe Novaya Gazeta when it says the Kremlin's initial investigation was credible, but we must ignore it when it says the investigation is not complete and has produced conclusions that are not supported by facts. On top of that, it's saying that puppet-master Berezovsky is pulling the strings not only of a ruthless pack of killers, but of the Russian nuclear industry, the KGB, and Scotland Yard -- and his best plan to undermine the Kremlin is to kill of all of his own best allies, exposing himself to deportation and execution. That's just plain crazy. It's an embarrassment to the blogosphere!

Strata-Sphere seems not to understand (or it chooses to ignore) the fact that Novaya Gazeta has said from the start that it was on the trail of the people who pulled the trigger on Anna. This meant that the Kremlin had no choice, unless it was going to shut down the paper and muzzle its staff, but to investigate and arrest those people, and to show a good effort to the paper in doing so. For Strato-Sphere to suggest, as it seems to be doing, that the Kremlin, if it were guilty, would follow such an investigation past the trigger to the highest reaches of power, exposing and arresting even Vladimir Putin himself if he were guilty, is an insult to the intelligence of every thinking reader in the blogosphere and gives conservatism a really bad name.

If Vladimir Putin thought he could get away with all these murders without the West taking any decisive action against him, he has clearly been proved 100% right, and those who claimed in his defense that ordering such killings would have been wildly dangerous proved 100% wrong. No action of any kind has yet been taken against Putin on account of these killings.

But all is not lost. There is, at least, reason to hope: When Slate magazine reviewed the blogosphere's reactions to the announcement of the arrests, for instance, it cited Robert Amsterdam's analysis, and Mark MacKinnon's supporting it (as well as even Sean Guillory) and ignored Strato-Sphere and Russia Blog. Such understanding is the first prerequisite to action, and indicates that the West is going to much harder to fool this time around. That's encouraging. The Washington Post's editors weren't fooled for a second, echoing Sokolov's words and warning: "Mr. Putin probably intends to use the lie that foreigners are sponsoring deadly plots against Russia as a theme in a domestic political campaign before parliamentary elections this year." The Wall Street Journal said it best: "Mr. Chaika's sweeping dismissal of even the possibility that someone within Russia ordered the killing undermines his credibility. Anna Politkovskaya would not have bought the government's line in such a story without substantial evidence to back it up. To accept anything less would be to dishonor her memory." An avalanche of reporting is rising to Politkovskaya's defense, showing that killing a journalist does have at least some consequences.

We've already documented at length a long list of obviously political murders that dates back to the inception of Vladimir Putin's installation in the Kremlin by Boris Yeltsin and begins with leading human rights advocate Galina Starovoitova. How many opponents of the Kremlin need to fall by the wayside before the world will take the necessary action to stop it?

That's a question to be answered in the future. It's clear that no amount of evidence will ever convince the rabid, frenzied Russophile cabal to disavow their Supreme Leader, and the West's cowardice fits a pattern than began with Hitler. Just try asking one of these folks what action against Russia they would be prepared to support if Putin admitted having ordered all these killings. You'll hear the sound of silence that destroyed the USSR.

And, after all, we've known -- as has every thinking person -- from the beginning who ordered Anna to be killed. Vladimir Putin's Kremlin did. Now we know (perhaps) who actually pulled the trigger at its behest. Hopefully, the world will fully realize, and act on, this obvious fact -- however belatedly and clumsily. Right now, though, there's a more important point to address: A proper answer to the question "who killed Anna?" doesn't place the lion's share of the blame with either Putin or his henchmen. Do you blame a lion for killing a zebra? Those who run the Kremlin are beasts, pure and simple, and beasts kill and eat, that's what they do. If you bring home a lion and put it in your house, it'll eat your children. If it does, you're to blame, not the lion. Do you blame a child for eating the trans-fat-laden food a parent puts in front of him, or breathing in their second-hand smoke? The witless drones who pulled the trigger are nothing more than pathetically helpless children doing the Kremlin's bidding.

No, the people of Russia killed Anna Politkovskaya. They killed her slowly, tortuously, by embracing a regime presided over by a proud KGB spy who launched a barbaric war of aggression against Chechnya, obliterated the independent press, crushed opposition political parties and wiped out local government. They killed her by allowing that regime to appropriate Russia's mineral resources and divert them to a new cold war, radically escalating military spending whilst ignoring Russia's horrifying poverty and demographic crisis. They killed her by making the same mistake twice, and forcing her beloved country down the road traveled by the USSR. And those who stood idly by in the West watching all this happen, rationalizing it, like Strata-Sphere, surely did their part in digging her grave.

Anna was a dead reporter walking, and not mostly because she was doomed to be whacked by a cowardly Kremlin hit. She could handle that, she was made of steel. Threats to her body meant nothing to her. Her soul, though, was another matter - and only her fellow Russian citizens could lay a glove on that. The withering flames of the Russian people's cowardly indifference to their own fate, their own history, that killed Anna long before she fell, melted her soul, inflicting upon her a pain that must have been unbearable even by a true hero like her. In fact, when Putin and his henchmen finished the job, they were probably doing her a favor, preventing her from having to see the worst her country could become.

A worst that is yet to be.


me said...

All I can say in response to this post is... HOOAH!!! :)

I think the one thing some people don't realize about Putin and his cronys are that they aren't carbon copies of the old Soviet leaders. They are generally more subtle rather then blunt. Just because they aren't as blustery as Hugo Chavez it doesn't mean they aren't as dangerious.

After the chaos of the 90's Putin bring back some 'order' looks like a good thing to people safe in the west. The problem is that Putin is using that order not to help his country but to enrich himself and to try and bully the countries around him.

Penny said...

More subtle than blunt? What was subtle about Litvinenko’s death and traces of polonium-210 all over London or cutting off neighboring countries gas supplies in the middle of winter or 19 journalists now dead or Yukos being completely dismantled and re-nationalized?

Putin hasn't got rail cars transporting thousands to the gulag yet, but, his methods of repression are as familiar as the old Soviets. He can't seal the country off like the old days, so he is adaptive. The Russians themselves are assisting him. They've made their choice, watching him dismantle democracy hasn't seemed to dimininish him in their eyes.

Any shred of respect I had for Russians, except for a very small handful that resist Putin, I don't have anymore.

me said...

Well....there's subtle and there's subtle the Russian way. Subtle as in not sending the tanks rolling across the border (like they have enough that work), the Stalin Terror (coming soon enough), the Gulag, etc. Instead of just killing Mikhail Khodorkovsky and taking Yukos Putin tries to make it look 'legal'.

Shutting off the gas was a bit much but he didn't suddenly jack up the prices by holding a gun to everybody's head. At least not yet. This was just the warning shots which were 'blamed' on Ukraine for not paying the 'correct' prices.

Putin is letting the world know who's boss without making it too obvious to the average joe.

Penny said...

me - Putin is a bigger swine than you give credit to, otherwise your point is well taken.