In a surprising gesture of support for free press, the normally pliant Mikhail Gorbachev hosted the launch of a new posthumous book of Anna Politkovskaya’s writings in Moscow to coincide with the summit of the International Federation of Journalists. One must wonder how this event plays with his friends in the Kremlin, who have grown used to his strongly supportive and apologetic public posturing. As the head of a civil society group, Gorby is extremely vulnerable to political interference – a situation that is widely assumed to guide and constrict the public expression of his opinions.
Upon presenting a new Anna Politkovskaya collection, Mikhail Gorbachev called for results in the investigations
Gorbachev, 76, hosted the launch at his political institute in Moscow alongside Politkovskaya’s son, daughter and estranged husband, who edited the book. “Anna may have died, but she is still with us and it (the book) is very important because we need to know more about people like her, especially in a country which is still trying to find its way,” Gorbachev told the press briefing. …… “It’s very important that this work is in Russian,” Politkovskaya’s 28-year-old son Ilya said. “My mother’s only book in Russian was in 2002 and was called ‘The Second Chechen War’. But there were problems printing it and distributing it.” The 988-page hardback book, entitled “What for” and priced at around 600 roubles ($14), arranges work by Politkovskaya around different themes. On Wednesday the prominence given to Politkovskaya’s book at shops in Moscow varied. At the Moscow Bookstore near Red Square, one of the Russian capital’s most famous and mainstream bookshops, about six copies of Politkovskaya’s book had been jammed into the political memoirs section.
From CJ Chivers of the IHT/NYT:
Mikhail Gorbachev, the former Soviet president and a co-owner of the newspaper that Politkovskaya brought fame, joined her editors, friends and family in calling for the crime to be solved. He said the case was especially important because much of Russian society thinks that law enforcement officials were involved in her killing. He also spoke, using words that did not to criticize Putin directly, of Russia’s need for independent journalists. “There is a great need for such people,” he said. “Maybe now the need is even greater than before.” Gorbachev held a copy of the book and suggested that while her writing was painful for some to read – it often accused government officials, soldiers and police officers of crimes – it was ultimately helpful to the Russian state. “It is bitter,” he said. “But it is a medicine.”