Grigory Pasko: Russia’s Disappearing Journalists

Are Journalists Quietly Going Away? By Grigory Pasko, journalist A couple of days ago, some foreign television journalists I know asked me if I happened to know where they could find Elena Tregubova, a journalist who had written a book called Tales of a Kremlin Digger. I told them I’d try to find out. Here’s what I found out: after the murder of Anna Politkovskaya, Tregubova had disappeared. Then she reappeared again for a short while. And now people are looking for her again. For now, it’s only journalists who are looking for her. One acquaintance of mine reported that he had “just now” spoken with Elena and had passed on my request that she touch base with me by telephone. And he hinted that Tregubova is indeed in hiding and that most likely she’s not in Russia. elena.jpg Judging by what happened with Litvinenko, being outside our beloved Russia is not always a guarantee of safety. The fact is that the journalist Tregubova really does seem to have reason to fear for her life. It is enough to recall that there has already been one attempt on her life. This was after her book came out in 2004. Here’s what the Grani.Ru website wrote in February 2004:

“…Elena Tregubova was summoned to Petrovka, 38 [the Moscow Criminal Investigation (MCI) Office – Trans.] to make a witness statement in connection with an explosion on Bolshoy Gnezdnikovsky Pereulok. The explosive device had gone off right next to Ms. Tregubova’s apartment on Monday, at around 2 PM. At first, the police categorized the explosion as “malicious hooliganism” and did not show any interest in what the journalist had told them. But on the morning of the next day, Elena Tregubova received a phone call from the MCI and was invited to come in for an interview with an investigator…”

As Ms. Tregubova explained it to Grani.Ru, the questioning was conducted by MCI officer Vadim Romanov… During the questioning, Mr. Romanov wondered whether Tregubova happened to be acquainted with former FSB officer Alexander Litvinenko. She replied that she did not know him, and asked why this would be of interest to the investigator. “Why wouldn’t it be?”, Romanov answered her. “After all, in your book (Tales of a Kremlin Digger – Ed.), you write the same thing that Litvinenko is saying – that Putin is involved in the bombings of the apartment buildings in Moscow.” In Tregubova’s words, investigator Romanov and another police officer who joined the discussion tried to convince her that the incident shouldn’t be taken seriously. …According to a Grani.Ru source in the law-enforcement organs, the power of the explosive device was equivalent to 60 grams of TNT, and that three batteries and an electric cord about 20 meters in length had been found at the place of the incident. I remember those times well, and the rumours that the mass media were spewing out then. Some colleagues – and I use the term loosely – even sank so low as to suggest that Tregubova herself had set the bomb for PR purposes. So it’s perfectly understandable that the news about Litvinenko’s poisoning may have alarmed Tregubova. And no doubt both this death and the murder of Politkovskaya has scared not only her. Tregubova told: “One very much wants to believe that this is just an ordinary explosion… Otherwise, it’s frightening to live in such a country.” It’s doubly frightening to live in a country where people are being poisoned and murdered nearly every week. I’ve recently begun to notice that the tone of the statements and publications of many journalists has changed: it has become more cautious. If certain particularly zealous critics of the Putin regime completely stop writing the truth, then we will be able to say that the powers have succeeded in their preventive intimidation campaign against the writing fraternity (and not only them). I’ve experienced on my own skin what “pre-emptive arrests” feel like. Apparently, we’ve now come to the era of pre-emptive killings. kremlin_digger.jpg From Tregubova’s book Tales of a Kremlin Digger:

“Putin’s reply to my question about the scandalous press conference by Litvinenko and other FSB officers, who had declared that the former leadership of the FSB had forced them to plan the murder of Berezovsky, was also most intriguing: “ ‘Personally I do not rule out for myself that these people actually did intimidate Boris Abramovich Berezovsky. After all, there had already been an attempt on his life. And it was easy and simple for him to believe that yet another attempt is being planned. But I personally consider that with the help of this scandal, the officers merely ensured themselves a labour market for the future. After all, some of them are now even working in his security detail.’ “Pausing a moment to think, he added: “ ‘And the story with the press conference, about which you remembered, testifies to the internal unhealthiness of our system. That’s precisely why I completely liquidated this unit, in which the scandal arose’.”