The Estemirova Fraud in Putin’s Russia
We carry a photograph in today’s issue which makes it appear that a malignant Vladimir Putin is controlling a puppet Dima Medvedev by remote control. Truly, one picture is worth a thousand words. Or, in this case, screams.
At a press conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel last week, Medvedev claimed that the Russian government had identified the killer of hero journalist Natalia Estemirova.
The man Medvedev has fingered for the crime is conveniently dead, therefore there won’t be any trial. He’s conveniently an anti-government militant, therefore apparently neither the Kremlin nor the Kadyrov regime in Chechnya can be blamed. And Medvedev himself admits the Kremlin has no idea who ordered the killing — and the killer being dead, no prospects of identifying him.
It is as if the U.S. government blamed the killing of Martin Luther King on Malcolm X after X was himself murdered. It is farce, in equal parts pathetic and tragic, of a kind only Russia can produce.
The Committee to Protect Journalists reports:
The day before, Natalya Estemirova had seen off two colleagues from Moscow. Yelena Milashina, a reporter with the newspaper Novaya Gazeta, and Tanya Lokshina, an advocate with the international group Human Rights Watch, had traveled to Chechnya on separate assignments. Like many visiting journalists and human rights defenders, Milashina and Lokshina had stayed with Estemirova. Her Grozny apartment had become a headquarters for such visitors; Russian and international journalists often made it their first stop. Estemirova was their primary source, consultant, fixer, translator, protector.
Estemirova was to travel to Moscow shortly, Milashina recalled later, so on July 14, 2009, the friends said goodbye with the words: “I’ll see you soon.”
The following is an extract from a 2,600-word article by Natalya Estemirova on the situation in Chechnya written in August 2008 but published only after her killing on the pages of The Independent:
The abductions in Chechnya started nearly a decade ago. In 2000, Russian forces took control of practically the entire territory of the republic, and started extensive mop-up operations in villages
Thousands of murders and abductions took place; these operations were declared to be an efficient method in the fight against rebels. In reality, however, the troops and police were looting the houses of unprotected civilians, at times taking away everything from them, from cars and furniture to shampoos and female underwear.
Dmitri Medevev, Rat Bastard
“As for the theories, I believe that those who committed this crime expected that the theories most primitive and unacceptable to the authorities would be put forward immediately. Her professional activities are necessary for any normal state, she was doing very useful things. She was telling the truth, she has openly and sometimes maybe even harshly evaluated certain processes in the country and that is why defenders of human rights are so valuable even if they are uncomforting and unpleasant for the authorities.”
Those are the remarks of Russian “president” Dmitri Medvedev, made in Germany, in response to the brutal murder of heroic Russian journalist Natalia Estemirova. Without any investigation having taken place at all, Medvedev has already ruled out the possiblity that Chechen dictator Ramzan Kadyrov, who had repeatedly threatened Estemirova’s life, could have been involved in the killing. He calls such an idea “unacceptable to the authorities.” Not false, mind you, just “unacceptable.” Just as Putin did with Politkovskaya, he claims the murderers are foreign conspirators who want to make Russia look bad. Berezovsky again, Mr. Medvedev? And while acknowledging her work as “necessary” he also finds it necessary to dismiss it as “harsh.”
So now we know without any shadow of doubt exactly where so-called “liberal” Medvedev stands. He stands with Putin. And let’s not forget for a second: Putin gave Kadyrov Russia’s highest state honour, making him a “Hero of Russia.”
Russia’s Barbaric “Internet”
Whenever the subject of the Kremlin’s brutal neo-Soviet crackdown on Russian newspapers and television comes up, as it has just done once again with the barbaric killing of Natalia Estemirova, the bleating refrain from the Russophile apologists is is always the same: But there’s the Internet! It’s perfectly free, and it’s all Russians need to preserve democracy.
It’s another ridiculous neo-Soviet lie, of course. In the first place, 80% of Russians have no access to the Internet, so even if it were full of critical information about the Kremlin, theycouldn’t read it. In the second place, the Kremlin is in the process of cracking down on the Internet too, prosecuting bloggers and even commenters, shutting down websites and deluging others with threats and intimidation.
As to the “Internet” that survives, it’s a wasteland of ignorance that reflects Russia itself, and only the fact that it’s written inRussian prevents certain naive foreigners from understanding that fact. To the rescue, however, came recently Harvard University’s Internet & Democracy blog, with a post showing how the Russian blogosphere utterly ignored U.S. President Obama’s recent visit to Moscow, just as the Kremlin wanted it to do.
Natalia Estemirova, Immortal Russian Patriot
Memorial, the NGO human rights organization slain Russian hero worked for, has shut down its operations in Chechnya becaue of the danger to its staff. Exactly what the Kremlin wanted! Newsweek Russia correspondent Anna Nemtsova, writing on Foreign Policy’s blog, remembers her fallen comrad (watch Estemirova speaking on YouTube with English subtitles here; watch HRW’s video tribute to her here, listen to the New Yorker‘s interview with her here; read a plethora of reader comments on a eulogy by a New York Times Russia correspondent who also knew her here):
Natalia Estemirova had a dry sense of humor and a giant heart. I remember the first time she showed us around her apartment, in the war-weary city of Grozny, she pointed to a huge shrapnel hole in the wall separating her daughter’s bedroom from the hallway. “Check out the new design of the ventilation,” she said. “I never have time to fix it, so let it stay a part of our interior.”
That was classic Natalia — a single mother and a human rights activist in a place that desperately needed them, she never had time for her own life; there were too many troubles to report on. She was a walking fountain of Chechnya’s sad stories: “I want to tell you a story about this man, a widower who was kidnapped from his house in a mountain village and now is being tortured in jail. His two little children live with his mother, who is almost 100 years old.” That was the first thing she told me when we met in Grozny in 2005.
At last, a major American newspaper has come out with the unvarnished truth about Russia. Under the headline “Russia, Disgraced” the Washington Post tells it like it is in an editorial on the Estemirova killing:
IN RUSSIA, a surefire way to curtail one’s life expectancy is to tell truths and pose questions that are inconvenient to the Kremlin and its loyalists. That is particularly so for journalists, human rights activists and others who dare to criticize the supremely brutal regime in the southern Russian region of Chechnya, which, with the Kremlin’s full backing, has prosecuted a blood-soaked anti-insurgency campaign.
SPECIAL EXTRA EDITORIAL
Barack Obama declares war on La Russophobe
Reacting to the murder of Russian hero journalist Natalia Estemirova, the European Union stated: “We condemn that brutal act and call for the authorities to try to establish who is responsible and take the action that is called for.”
Here’s what Barack Obama’s State Department had to say: “The United States is deeply saddened by reports of the abduction and murder of respected human rights activist Natalya Estemirova. We call upon the Russian government to bring those responsible to justice.” Think that was just State, and Obama’s White House had stronger feelings? Nope, they were “sad” too. They were maybe a little sadder than state, to the point of being “disturbed.” They called the act an “outrageous crime” but did not condemn it as the EU was willing to do.
The EU is outraged and condemns the brutality, the American president is “sad” about the murder and has no further comment. We are disgusted beyond words. It feels as if Mr. Obama has declared war on La Russophobe. And let’s be clear: The EU statement was hardly all it should have been. Rather than “calling” for justice, the EU should have demanded it, and should have specified what steps it would take if Russia, once again, failed to deliver justice. Europe has always looked to America for leadership on such issues, and now it is America that looks to Europe. It is a nightmare.
Human rights leaders in Russia were not so cowardly.