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Masha Gessen on Putin & Politkovskaya

Masha Gessen writes a brief memorial piece in the New York Times to mark the sixth anniversary of Anna Politkovskaya’s (still unsolved) murder on October 7, 2006.  Gessen focuses in on the various conspiracy theories flowing from the fact that Politkovskaya’s death coincided with Vladimir Putin’s birthday.

To the conspiracy-minded, this was clear evidence that Politkovskaya, who had written articles and books highly critical of Putin — the president then, too — had been killed on his orders. To the even more conspiracy-minded, it was evidence that she was not killed on his orders. Only someone out to set the president up to look like the killer would have staged the murder on his birthday.

Putin celebrated his 60th birthday with an unusual interview recorded over the course of several days. He commented on the jailed members of the punk group Pussy Riot (“They got what they wanted”), on the former oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky (if he wants to get out of jail, he should ask to be pardoned) and even on leaders of the protest movement (he is not mad at them even though they have been rude).

He said nothing about Anna Politkovskaya. Still, for the rest of his life, on the day Vladimir Putin celebrates his birthday, it is his slain critic many of us will be remembering.