Today the Financial Times is running a lead editorial titled “The Kremlin is Killing Russia’s Rule of Law.” Here are some extracts:
Russian president Vladimir Putin took power in 2000 with promises of recreating a strong, law-abiding state. The killing of Alexander Litvinenko, the former spy, and a spate of other assassinations suggest Mr Putin’s Russia may well be strong – but it is far from being law-abiding. Nobody has been charged over Mr Litvinenko’s death. The range of possible suspects, including present and former security officers, businessmen and gangsters, is wide. The Kremlin bluntly denies any involvement. But Mr Putin cannot reject responsibility for contributing to the creation of a state in which assassination has become commonplace. Nor can he deny that recent targets have included Kremlin opponents such as Mr Litvinenko himself and Anna Politkovskaya, the murdered campaigning journalist – and also, quite possibly, the soft critic Yegor Gaidar, a former prime minister who this week survived what seems to have been a poisoning attempt. Other high-profile murder victims include a state news agency manager, a Chechen commander linked to the FSB security services, and a senior central bank official. Russian public life has suddenly become very dangerous. … Mr Putin would argue that in the process he has recreated the rule of law. However, this does not mean law as applied by independent courts, but law as imposed by the Kremlin. The state can resort even to gross violations of human rights without fear of legal challenge, as with the recent mass deportation of Georgian migrants. Might, not right, has triumphed. As a result, growing numbers of those with power and money feel no need to respect the law. Some seem to think they can bully their way out of any trouble – even to the extent of killing their enemies. The recent assassinations may have varying origins but there is a common thread – a settling of scores among the powerful.