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The echo from the murder of Anna Politkovskaya has traveled far and wide
The echo from the murder of Anna Politkovskaya, who was buried earlier on Tuesday, has traveled far and wide. Although the Novaya Gazeta daily’s columnist was a harsh critic of the authorities, first and foremost for their policies in the North Caucasus, even members of the radical opposition have refrained from linking this crime to “some instructions from above.” On the contrary, many commentators suspect that the real aim of the crime was to discredit the authorities – the federal bodies of power and the local ones in Chechnya. Some have gone so far as to say the journalist’ s murder brings grist to the West’s mill. Anna Politkovskaya owed her wide acclaim mostly to stories and reports about Chechnya and the North Caucasus and corruption among senior officials, so her professional activity was regarded as the main motive from the outset. “She wrote about Beslan, she probed into the Nord-Ost affair (hostage-taking crisis at a Moscow theater). That’s where the motives must be looked for,” said State Duma member Vladimir Ryzhkov. The investigators are probing into three main versions – revenge by corrupt police who as a result of her publications found themselves behind bars or on the wanted list, a conspiracy by opponents of Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chechen Prime Minister Ramzan Kadyrov, and revenge by former militants, who have made up their mind to side up with the federal forces. As follows from some media reports, Politkovskaya may have died at the hands of Russian nationalists. Her name was found on the death lists compiled by the leaders of Nazi-style groups. A political provocation is yet another explanation some media have offered. Its aim may have been to discredit the current Chechen authorities or trigger a powerful social and public response. Such high-profile crimes invariably harm the prestige of the state. “Somebody is out to cast a shadow on the country’s leadership and the positive processes that have been underway in the North Caucasus,” said former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev. If that is the case, the death contract was put on Politkovskaya by someone outside Russia, the on-line periodical GZT.ru quotes investigation team members as saying. Political scientist Pavel Svyatenkov has told the Internet newspaper Lentacom.ru “Politkovskaya’s murder spells unambiguous benefits for the West.” “The past month saw massive unofficial clampdown on Russia,” Svyatenkov, a board member at the Institute of Development fund, said. “Take the attempts to pull Ukraine into NATO. Take the alliance’s “intensive dialogue” with Georgia. Take Saakashvili’s behavior, very humiliating for Russia, which has been certainly agreed with the West.” “Theoretically, Politkovskaya’s murder diverts attention from Georgia and builds up western pressures on Russia, something today’s Georgia can only benefit from. Yet, I believe that those who had ordered the crime are more global. There is no immediate evidence somebody in the West issued direct instructions. It is beyond doubt, though, that the West is a direct beneficiary,” Svyatenkov said. The media emphasize the fact that the focus of Politkovskaya’s critical publications was on Chechnya’s Prime Minister Ramzan Kadyrov, whom she wanted to see tried, and also his entourage. “Irrespective of Chechens’ complicity in the crime the investigators will certainly get the federal authorities’ go-ahead to investigate Chechnya’s politicians and senior law enforcers,” says the on-line periodical NEWS.ru.com. “According to one of the versions, that was one of the aims those behind the journalist’s murder had pursued.” “If this logic is to be followed, Politkovskaya was chosen as the victim because her conflicts with the Chechen prime minister and his men were common knowledge.” It is noteworthy Ramzan Kadyrov and Chechnya’s President Alu Alkhanov on Monday offered condolences over the journalist’s death. “Although Politkovskaya’s stories about Chechnya were not always impartial, as a human being I am sincerely sorry she is no more,” Kadyrov Jr. said. Some commentators speculate Politkovskaya’s murder was ordered by some of Kadyrov’s firm loyalists, as a sort of a gift on the occasion of the prime minister’s birthday he celebrated just recently. Corrupt police convicted on criminal charges following Politkovskaya’s publications had every reason to be eager to see her dead. The crime’s connection with nationalist groups is a possibility. Politkovskaya’s name was on the blacklist of “enemies of the Russian people and Russian statehood,” compiled Nikolai Kuryanovich, a State Duma member from the Liberal Democrat party in March 2006. A short while later such lists appeared on Nazi-style web sites, alongside calls for murders of personalities not to the nationalists’ liking. It should be also borne in mind that Politkovskaya was involved in human rights activities – she was helping mothers of killed soldiers in courts of law and participated in investigations of cases of corruption at the Defense Ministry and the command of the federal troops’ group in Chechnya. The daily Kommersant has described Anna as a “writing human rights activist.” At the same time the daily remarks that the public response to the murder could have been far bigger, because human rights activities and human rights journalism still have a marginal status in the eyes of “the man in the street.” “A human rights activist still looks as something suspicious and useless to most Russians – either as someone half-crazy or an agent on the payroll of subversive forces,” the daily said. A Levada-Center opinion poll last May found out that for 54 percent of the Russians there exist far more significant values than human rights and freedoms. Most of the values placed before human rights are material ones. Over the past ten years Russians have invariably pointed to “free education, health care and maintenance in old age” as values far more important to them. Even the radical opposition does not believe the authorities may be involved in the murder to the slightest extent, although some of its members have pointed an accusing finger at the authorities as the ones who created a favorable environment in which the crime became possible. They have strong doubts this affair may have any serious internal political effects, though. “What the radical opposition holds the Kremlin responsible for is creation of a favorable environment for the crime by launching an active campaign against the liberals and human rights activists,” the deputy general director of the Political Technologies Center, Alexei Makarkin, told the Internet periodical Politcom.ru. “As for suspicions there might have been a direct order from the Kremlin, even many members of the opposition have brushed it aside.” Political Studies Institute Director Sergei Markov is certain that Politkovskaya’s murder would cause no change “to the political context.” From that standpoint far more important in political terms for the authorities was the assassination of Andrei Kozlov (first deputy CBR president), who was equal in rank to a Cabinet member, as well as the fact that senior civil servants have begun to be gunned down on the streets. As far as relations with the West are concerned, “the conflict with Georgia or our position on Iran is capable of complicating them to a far greater extent,” Markov said.
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