Tuesday, October 24

Moscow back in the shadows - Haaretz

"It is time to end the fiction that Vladimir Putin's "dictatorship of law" has made post-communist Russia any less lawless. The murder of Anna Politkovskaya is final proof that President Putin has delivered nothing more than a run-of-the-mill dictatorship with the usual contempt for law.

Just as in the KBG's heyday, people simply disappear in Putin's Russia. Enver Ziganshin, the chief engineer of BP Russia, was shot to death in Irkutsk on September 30. Andrei Kozlov, the deputy governor of Russia's central bank, who was leading a campaign against financial fraud, was assassinated on September 14.

The fact that Russia's Prosecutor, General Yuri Chaika, took over the investigation into Politkovskaya's killing, as he did with the murder of Kozlov, doesn't inspire hope, as such senior level involvement would in any real democracy. In fact, the involvement of the highest level of Russia's government is almost a guarantee that the killers will never be found.

As shown by the exile of the former media tycoons Boris Berezovsky and Vladimir Gusinky, and the imprisonment of oil magnate Mikhail Khodorkovsky, three fates await Putin's enemies: exile, imprisonment or the grave.

The six-year period since Vladimir Putin arrived in the Kremlin has been a time of deeply conflicting signals. On one hand, the world sees a young, educated leader pledging to modernize Russia, particularly in terms of bringing its law enforcement and judicial practices into line with international norms. On the other, the president watches in silence while his ex-colleagues in Russia's FSB security service (the former KGB) provide no security to those murdered and launch a series of notorious espionage cases against journalists, scientists, and environmental activists. These "neo-spies" include journalist Gregory Pasko, arms control expert Igor Sutyagin, diplomat Valentin Moiseyev, physicist Valentin Danilov and others.

The supposedly civilizing influence of being a Western partner - chairing a G8 summit in Saint Petersburg for example - seems to have been lost on Putin's Kremlin cabal. Once again exposure to Western values has delivered another Potemkin village; Russia presents a facade of laws and democratic institutions, but behind that cardboard surface the same arbitrary brutes rule

Every policeman knows that when you ignore criminal behavior, criminals grow bolder. It is past time for the world to recognize Vladimir Putin for what he is: a man who is taking Russia back into the shadows. So the world must now ponder the Latin maxim qui tacet consentere videtur - silence means consent

See the full article at Haaretz

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