Monday, October 09, 2006

Meet the New Russia, Same as the Old Russia..

From the Sydney Morning Herald:

A RUSSIAN journalist renowned for probing corruption and the brutality of Russia's military campaign in Chechnya has been gunned down and killed in the lobby of her apartment building.

Anna Politkovskaya, 48, who had chronicled nearly every major story in Russia in the past decade, was killed on Saturday. Her reports often clashed with official versions of such events as the hostage crisis at a theatre in Moscow in 2002 and the bloody end of a school siege in Beslan in 2004.

The mother of two drew a large crowd at the Sydney Writers' Festival in May, where she spoke about her book A Dirty War: A Russian Reporter in Chechnya.

She was a harsh critic of President Vladimir Putin's rule and was working on a story about torture in Chechnya, where a Kremlin-backed strongman has all but routed a separatist movement that sparked two bloody wars, but at a cost to Russia that has yet to be measured. The article was to be published Monday, according to her newspaper, Novaya Gazeta, one of the few independent media outlets in Russia.

The former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, who is said to be concerned about the increasing lack of pluralism in the country, recently became a minority shareholder in the newspaper.

"It is a savage crime against a professional and serious journalist and a courageous woman," Mr Gorbachev told the Russian news agency Interfax. "It is a blow to the entire democratic, independent press. It is a grave crime against the country, against all of us."

The attack was the highest-profile killing of a journalist in Russia since July 2004, when Paul Klebnikov, an American editor of the Russian edition of Forbes magazine, was gunned down outside his office. Twelve journalists have been killed since Mr Putin came to power in 2000, and most of the cases remain unsolved.

In a world filled with the distractions of AQ, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and Kim Jong Il, it's easy to forget some of the truly powerful and nasty bastards. It's too easy to forget that while $80 a barrel oil helped Chavez and Ahmadinejad, it REALLY helped ol' Pootie-Poot.

"Say, what if I faxed you a headshot of Helen Thomas...?"

Update: Been waiting for the nuclear test verdict all day and it still seems inconclusive. But if it's a success or close to it, I reckon I have to move Kim Jong Il from the category of "distraction" to "truly nasty and powerful bastard" -- the club he's wanted to be a part of all his life.