Politkovskaya’s Death, Other Killings, Raise Questions About Russian Democracy

Politkovskaya’s Death, Other Killings, Raise Questions About Russian Democracy

Over the last month, Russia has experienced a surge of contract killings, with five high-profile murders -- a potent reminder that the country is far from the stable democracy its leaders say it is. The Oct. 7 murder of the anti-Kremlin journalist and human rights advocate Anna Politkovskaya is the most prominent of these, and the latest of 11 murders of Russian journalists in the last six years.

Sadly, however, Politkoskaya's is not the most recent such killing. Aleksandr Plokhin, manager of the Moscow branch of the state-owned Vneshtorgbank, was shot dead on Oct. 10. And Anatoly Voronin, an executive at the state-owned ITAR-TASS news agency, was stabbed to death in his flat in Moscow Oct. 13.

In a political climate with virtually no vital opposition parties or movements, Politkovskaya, 48, was easily the most outspoken critic of Putin's regime. Her coverage of the Chechen wars and her numerous books, such as "The Dirty War" and "Putin's Russia: Life in a Failing Democracy," offered sharp criticism of Putin's government and a rare glimpse into the lawlessness and brutality of the Chechen conflict. Her reporting provided evidence to open multiple criminal cases that led to charges of rape, murder and corruption against Russian and Chechen officials. In some cases, her reporting is the only documented evidence available of abductions, disappearances and torture in the first and second Chechen wars, as most of the media were prevented from covering the war by the Russian government.

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