Today Sean’s Russia Blog has an article on the murder of a United Russia deputy named Grigory Nosikov, commenting that the Western media has repeatedly ignored and/or downplayed violent deaths of members of government. Were Nosikov a journalist, opposition activist, or human rights activist, Sean quips, “you would probably know his name and his life by heart by now.“
I’m not sure what to make of this comment. On the one hand, it’s intentionally provocative (because that’s what good blogging is all about) because it suggests that the sometimes inappropriate and clumsy wielding of names like Politkovskaya is on the same level as the murder and impunity itself. The timing of this comment, coinciding with the murder of Marksharip Aushev (who was running Ingushetia.org after his predecessor was also killed – you can read an article about him by Stanislav Markelov written for this blog, before he too was killed), I think is sure to raise some eyebrows.
Secondly, Sean makes it clear that it was Nosikov’s business dealings, not his politics, which allegedly prompted the violence. That strikes me as an important detail.
Let’s be clear that all such horrible acts of violence are equallyodious, outrageous, and deserving of justice. No one life is worthmore than another, no matter what their position – but in a one partystate, being a United Russia deputy is akin to being a “made man” inpolitical terms. If he had been leading a probe into the party’scorruption, we can assume that the media would likely have taken more interest. Of course this doesn’t mean that the murder of a state party politician isn’t unjust – it’s just not political. The assassination attempts against Ramzan Kadyrov and Yunus-Bek Yevkurov definitely made international headlines, for example.
In the past I have written on the topic of growing insecurity and prolific crime within some authoritarian states, which often runs counter to the myth that these leaders made a bargain to take away liberties in exchange for some type of hard to define “stability.” One point that I am keen to stress is that these bullets don’t really pause in mid-air to consider one’s voting habits, and the broken conditions of rule of law similarly prevent justice for just about everybody (take the Paul Klebnikov case for example – few would describe him as a government critic).
Lastly and most importantly, I don’t think we can begin to pretend that the West gives a damn about anybody getting murdered in Russia – that would mean that Washington wouldn’t be stumbling straight forward into the “reset” with their eyes wide shut. Believe me, there is little appetite on Capitol Hill to hear about human rights violations in Russia today. Such cognitive dissonance clashes harshly with the current fantasies of a cooperative Kremlin. As for Europe, they are happy to give out a prize here and there, but politically they couldn’t be further away from action.
Sean’s story does open up an interesting discussion though. He links to a story posted in Argumenty i fakty which lists some 24 city and state members of government who have been murdered since 1992. Goodness, that is a high number, and yes, I think that’s a news story. So what is the trend at work behind these murders of United Russia deputies? Does the Western media really give disproportionate coverage to only opposition victims? It’s an interesting debate once we sort through the knee-jerk responses of those reading from their scripts.