[lit-ideas] Anna Politkovskaya 1958 - 2006

  • From: Teemu Pyyluoma <teme17@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Sat, 7 Oct 2006 23:20:29 -0700 (PDT)

Possibly the single most important current journalist, Anna Politkovskaya was 
found shot dead in the elevator at her appartment building. The following 
pretty much captures the significance of the assasination: "'Oleg Panfilov, 
director of the Moscow-based Centre for Journalism in Extreme Situations. 
said... "Whenever the question arose whether there is honest journalism in 
Russia, almost every time the first name that came to mind was Politkovskaya"'  

Guardian has a fine obituary:

Assassin's bullet kills fiery critic of Putin       


                    The woman who exposed the Kremlin's dirty war in Chechnya 
is found dead near her Moscow flat           


                                          Tom Parfitt in Moscow

Sunday    October   8, 2006

The Observer             


                  Anna Politkovskaya, the journalist who did most to uncover 
the Kremlin's dirty war in Chechnya, was shot dead close to her Moscow 
apartment yesterday in a killing that sent shock waves across Russia. Her body 
was found slumped in a lift next to a pistol and four bullets.Politkovskaya, 
48, was a constant critic of the Kremlin and her murder will throw suspicion on 
the security services and the pro-Moscow regime in Chechnya. Former Soviet 
leader Mikhail Gorbachev called the killing 'a grave crime against the country, 
against all of us'.

She was recognised around the world for her principled stand against two brutal 
wars prosecuted by Moscow in Chechnya that have left hundreds of thousands of 
people dead, injured or missing. Despite repeated threats to her life she vowed 
she would not be silenced: 'There are people in this country who would do 
anything to keep me quiet. I don't consider it anything heroic - I'm just 
trying to do my job, to let people know what's happening in our country.'

In an anthology 'Another Sky', due to be published next year by English PEN, a 
writers' group campaigning against political oppression, Politkovskaya 
chillingly predicted yesterday's events: 'Some time ago Vladislav Surkov, 
deputy head of the presidential administration, explained that there were 
people who were enemies but whom you could talk sense into, and there were 
incorrigible enemies to whom you couldn't and who simply needed to be 
"cleansed" from the political arena. So they are trying to cleanse it of me and 
others like me.'

On a visit to Chechnya she alleged that the former President of the Chechen 
Republic Akhmad Kadyrov vowed to assassinate her. 'The women in the crowd tried 
to conceal me because they were sure the Kadyrov people would shoot me on the 
spot if they knew I was there,' she said 'They reminded me that Kadyrov 
publicly vowed to murder me. He actually said during a meeting of his 
government that Politkovskaya was a condemned woman. I was told about it by 
members of the government.'

Her 2003 book A Dirty War: A Russian Reporter in Chechnya was praised for its 
harrowing and detailed accounts of daily life in war-torn Chechnya. 'My notes 
are written for the future. They are the testimony of the innocent victims of 
the new Chechen war, which is why I record all the detail I can,' she wrote.

She remained defiant in the face of repeated threats but admitted she felt 
shaken by what she was convinced was a poisoning on a flight to cover the 
Beslan school hostage crisis in 2004. She became unconscious on the plane after 
drinking a cup of tea and woke up hours later in intensive care. 'At one point, 
I didn't have a pulse and the doctors were sure I would die,' she said. 'It was 
miracle I survived.'

Her death came on the birthday of President Vladimir Putin and two days after 
one of her bitterest critics, the pro-Moscow prime minister of Chechnya, Ramzan 
Kadyrov, the son of the ex-President, had his 30th birthday, prompting 
speculation her life had been taken as a gift to both men. Yulia Latynina, a 
newspaper commentator who knew the journalist, said: 'All her publications of 
the last few months were about Chechnya and Kadyrov. Politkovskaya hated him. 
And two days ago was his birthday - from here can only be one motive.'

Toby Eady, her London literary agent, told The Observer he had recently tried 
to persuade Politkovskaya to leave Russia because of the threats. 'She said she 
would not leave Russia until Putin was gone. She actually asked, with deeply 
dark humour, what would happen to her advance if she was killed.'

There seemed little doubt that the journalist was killed for her cutting 
reportage from Chechnya, the Muslim republic that tried to break free from 
Russia in the early Nineties.

Last night police were reportedly hunting for a man in a baseball cap seen 
close the scene of the murder, which took place at about 4.30pm local time. 
Politkovskaya's blanket-covered corpse was carried out of the apartment block 
where she lived. A crowd of weeping people gathered at police cordons, placing 
roses and candles by the doorway.

Critics accused her of being partisan in her damning reports on the cruelty of 
Russian federal forces, but Politkovskaya did not hold back on criticism of the 
Chechen rebels' brutal tactics either. Her speciality, however, was exposing 
the horror, corruption and chaos wrought on civilian victims of the first war 
in Chechnya from 1994 to 1996 and the one that followed from 1999 onwards.

At a time when reporters from state-leaning publications were turning a blind 
eye, Politkovskaya went again and again to Chechnya documenting abuse of 
civilians by government troops. Her articles for the newspaper Novaya Gazeta 
won numerous international awards and she wrote two books about Chechnya, plus 
a highly critical political biography of Putin. She also wrote several 
dispatches for The Observer's sister paper, the Guardian.


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