Sunday, October 08, 2006

Russian Journalist Anna Politkovskaya Gunned Down in Moscow!

"Her outspoken style came at a price."
October 7, 2006 (RFE/RL) -- Anna Politkovskaya, a prominent Russian journalist known for her critical coverage of the war in Chechnya, has been shot dead in her apartment building in Moscow.
Prosecutors have opened an investigation into the October 7 shooting, which they say could have been a "premeditated murder." Press watchdogs and rights activists have condemned the killing.

Moscow police said Politkovskaya's body was found by a neighbor in an elevator in the apartment building where she was living in the city center.

Police officials said a pistol and four bullets were found in the elevator.

Politkovskaya was respected for her critical, in-depth coverage of the Russian government's campaign in Chechnya. She worked for "Novaya gazeta," a newspaper known for its opposition to the Kremlin.

Grigory Yavlinsky of the liberal opposition Yabloko party told RFE/RL's Russian Service that the murder was "an outrage and a tragedy."

"Anna Politkovskaya was the number-one person in political journalism, in the sense that she wrote everything she thought and everything she saw," Yavlinsky said. "She was always in the most critical places -- Chechnya, Beslan. Her material uncovered the essence of everything taking place in Russian politics, and generally in Russian life. She was a person who could bring secrets out into the open. Her murder -- the destruction of such a person -- is a very symbolic event for Russia."

Deep Involvement

Politkovskaya's coverage of Chechnya often extended beyond standard reporting work.

In 2002, she acted as a negotiator with Chechen rebels who laid siege to a Moscow theater.

In books like "The Dirty War" and "A Small Corner of Hell," Politkovskaya described the massive human rights abuses rampant in Chechnya.

She was also openly critical of Russian President Vladimir Putin for his role in the Chechen campaign.

Her outspoken style came at a price. She had been arrested in the past, and complained of sometimes being threatened.

In 2004, she fell seriously ill with symptoms of food poisoning after drinking tea on a flight from Moscow to southern Russia during the school hostage crisis in Beslan, North Ossetia. [The rest.]

Here is an article on corruption in the so-called Russian security agencies. It describes the so-called Three Whales Affair:

"Three Whales is a furniture import company, which has been under suspicion for dealing in contraband.....The case began as an ordinary contraband probe in October 2000, when Captain Pavel Zaitsev, an investigator in the Moscow Interior Ministry, filed a criminal case against a furniture company, Liga Mars and its showrooms Three Whales, owned by Sergei Zuev, and Grand.

Zaitsev suspected that the company was also illegally smuggling weapons and oil and laundering money. At the same time, Customs Service inspectors Oleg Volkov and Marat Faizulinn opened a parallel investigation of some of its agency's members they suspected of being involved in dubious import deals with France, Italy, and Germany. They also asked their Western counterparts to probe the deals from their side.
The backer of Three Whales is FSB Deputy Director General Colonel Yury Zaostrovtsev and his father, Yevgeny, a retired FSB major general who was responsible for Grand's security. Zaostrovtsev senior was also a KGB boss of current FSB head Nikolai Patrushev. Zaitsev also discovered that corrupt Russian officials were attempting to launder hundreds of million of dollars through Liga Mars and the Bank of New York [BONY] in the 1990s."

Author Victor Yasmann concludes by noting, "corruption has infested Russia's judiciary and law-enforcement bodies -- the very bodies that are tasked with protecting society often end up posing more of a threat."

Death of Journalist Yury Shchekochikhin: [See right column, here]

"A month before his death, [Russian investigative reporter Yury] Shchekochikhin met with officials from the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation to discuss the possibility that Three Whales was tied to another massive corruption scandal -- the Bank of New York money-laundering case. U.S. investigators accused Russia of laundering billions of dollars through BONY in 1998-99.

Three Whales, Shchekochikhin alleged, had been among the businesses illegally channelling its millions through the bank's accounts. He had received a U.S. visa with the aim of testifying in the case, as well as in the corruption case implicating then-Atomic Energy Minister Yegveny Adamov. But he never got a chance to use it."


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