In light of Barack Obama’s visit to Russia, Forbes is publishing a number of new articles as part of a special report to remind everybody that the murder of their former employee, Paul Klebnikov, remains unsolved and politically stalled. Here is just one from Nina Khrushcheva:
It is generally accepted that, in civilized countries, when a reporter loses his or her life it is while covering war or other armed conflicts. And when a businessman is jailed it is typically for proven acts of fraud. Not so in Russia, the country where Vladimir Putin once declared a “dictatorship of law,” and where the current president, Dmitry Medvedev, reassuringly pledged a fight against “legal nihilism” not long after assuming office.
Out of the 250 journalists who have died in Russia since the end of communism, 150 were murdered covering normal, peacetime stories. Mikhail Khodorkovsky, a businessman who dared to challenge the country’s leadership and amass political and monetary wealth, has found himself imprisoned for years.
If it all sounds rather Soviet, it is. Things have changed, of course: Under communism there was little dissent, and now there’s thriving, uncensored discussion online and in small newspapers like Novaya Gazeta. But one similarity between then and now remains: The state only gives an impression of investigating certain crimes. And, as before, we can only suspect the state’s connection to the killings and apparently random imprisonments, since the evidence is so scanty and the investigations are so perfunctory. What remains constant is that Russia–under any regime–is always terrified of its critics and wants them silent.