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Democracy denied by Russian journalist’s killing

In the not-too-distant past, terrorism by Muslim extremists wasn’t the enemy at the forefront of the American mindset. The Soviet Union was.

Those Soviet crooks were supposed to have passed into obscurity after the Berlin Wall was brought down in 1989, right? Russia is supposed to be – almost – America’s ally, right? Well, not exactly.

A close look at the Russian government reveals a disturbing similarity to the old Soviet Union. The “in club” is still “in,” and former Soviet officials abound in the increasingly democratic Russian government. It could be asserted that the reason the rest of the Russian government doesn’t engage in bureaucratic resistance against President Valdimir Putin’s more authoritarian reforms is because it’s the style of government it’s used to . In theory, convincing ex-Soviets to participate in democracy is easy, especially when their economy is destroyed.

But the killing of journalist Anna Politkovskaya seems to hint at the idea that the Soviet Union isn’t as dead as people seem to think.

Politkovskaya was shot to death and found in an elevator in a building in Moscow. She had gained international acclaim due to her reporting of abhorrent human rights abuses in war-ravaged Chechnya, which has so often has been the thorn in Putin’s foot. She was set to reveal another investigative story about Chechnya, this one about torture and kidnappings committed by Russia and its associates in the region. Ramzan Kadyrov, the Russian-backed prime minister in Chechnya, was a regular target of Politkovskaya’s.

Politkovskaya’s co-workers have pledged to investigate the murder on their own. They say it was a revenge killing in retaliation for her coverage of Chechnya, which put Russia’s government in a relatively horrific light.

It wouldn’t be the first time a journalist was mysteriously shot to death in Russia for saying unpleasant things. In July 2004, Paul Klebnikov, an American-born journalist and editor of the Russian edition of Forbes magazine, was killed. He was reporting on the corrupt Russian business world. His murder remains unresolved. In all, 13 journalists have been assassinated in Russia during the past six years.

There is little evidence with which to accuse Russia or its associates of killing journalists out of retribution. It stands to reason there wouldn’t be; that sort of story is the reason many of these journalists were killed. Just look at Politkovskaya – her most recent report was not, and probably never will be, received by the newspaper for which she worked.