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Anna Politkovskaya 1958-2006


I was really saddened to read of the blatant assassination of the most brave and intelligent Russian journalist of her generation Anna Politkovskaya. She was relentless in her devotion to uncovering the military human rights abuses in Chechnya and was a constant thorn in the side of Putin’s government. Her last piece published in Novaya Gazeta directly attacked the pro-Kremlin militia in Chechnya. It is thought that her death was possibly a sinister birthday present for the Chechyn PM whose birthday fell the day after she was killed. It seems that it is no coincidence that this was also the day when her current article was to be published citing his widespread and unlawful torture activities. Of course, her death has now caused the article to be withdrawn.

In Hell, an article from July 2000, she describes the ruins of the Chechen capital, Groznyy: “The city ruins are like a new Caucasus mountain range. African-style famine. Painfully thin children…Living streets full of dead eyes. Mad and half-mad people. Streets teeming with weapons. Mines everywhere. Permanent explosions. Despair.”

She reported the clear truth in her own direct and inimitable style which earned her harsh criticism despite the fact that her reporting stood heads above alot of what has and continues to be written in the Russian mainstream media. She continued her work at great personal risk and was not a stranger to previous attempts on her life or regular death threats especially over the last decade. In 2004, she fell seriously ill after drinking tea on a flight bound for Beslan. She never made it and ended up in intensive care instead. She was not expected to survive but somehow managed to recover. It was thought that she was acting as one of the few crisis negotiators having previously been allowed into the Moscow theatre seige in 2002 for the same reason. I remember seeing a documentary about Politkovskaya a couple of years ago and was enthused by her intelligence, indescribable bravery and brilliantly clear way of expressing herself. She was and should continue to be an inspiration – not just to the people of Russia but to the world. It is not a surprise that she was joint winner of the 2005 Olaf Palme Peace Prize for her unique journalism and efforts spanning an unrelenting career of over twenty years. Anna Politkovskaya will no doubt be recognised worldwide for her service to the reporting of truth in a country which has a history of fear, suspicion and extreme cruelty towards its own people. As yet, no word from the Kremlin. I hope her death will change the course of Russian politics for the good. Whether it will or it won’t (be allowed to) – it should.

Hundreds of mourners across Moscow, St Petersburg and Grozny have been lighting candles and laying tributes to Politkovskaya since the news broke yesterday. Some have pasted up pictures of Putin with the words “It is your fault” scrawled hastily underneath. The Kremlin no doubt will remain silent while the ‘investigation’ will eventually conclude that no suspect could be traced despite the fact it is thought that her murder was possibly linked to her work. And still, Putin won’t quite be able to shake off the ghost of his shady KGB past because the legacy of Politkovskaya will still be there to shake him up a bit.


Their sign reads: The Kremlin has killed Freedom of Speech (courtesy mosdave/flickr)

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