RA’s Daily Russian News Blast – July 16, 2009

natayia_estemirova_1443908c.jpgTODAY: Rights activist Natalya Estemirova found dead hours after abduction; the US and EU both express regret and urge protection for rights advocates; Putin silent.  Russia’s superannuated military struggling to keep up? US soldiers engage in exercises with Georgians in show of solidarity.

Human rights activist Natalya Estemirova, Memorial’s representative to Chechyna and winner of the first annual Anna Politkovskaya Award in 2007 for her work as a human rights defender, was abducted in Grozny upon leaving her home.  Her body was found some hours later off a highway.  The slain activist was ‘a central source of information on abuses in Chechnya’, according to the New York Times, and her recent work had focused upon kidnappings that had taken place under the aegis of the Chechen President, Ramzan A. Kadyrov.  The newspaper reports that she had once been threatened in a personal meeting with Kadyrov after criticizing a law requiring women to wear headscarves.   Memorial’s Chairman Oleg Orlov has said ‘I know, I am sure of it, who is guilty for the murder of Natalia… His name is Ramzan Kadyrov’.   Kadyrov has, according to the Washington Post, called the killing ‘cynical’ and ‘provocative’ and promised to bring the murderers to justice.  A Kremlin spokeswoman has said President Dmitry Medvedev is outraged and has ordered an investigation. 

A White House National Security Council spokesman has made a statement: ‘We call uponthe Russian government to bring to justice those responsible for thisoutrageous crime and demonstrate that lawlessness and impunity will notbe tolerated.  The EU Presidency has said that the murder ‘draws attention to thenecessity of protecting human rights defenders in Russia‘. Bloomberg has a video report.  The Telegraph suggests that unless Putin fails to make a statement condemning the incident,‘the world can only conclude that he leads a government which, at thevery least, tolerates the murder of its critics‘. 

Rampant corruption and the inefficient allocation of resources’ are hindering the modernization of the military argues a commentator in the Moscow Times.  The New York Times suggests that the failed tests of the Baluva missile reflect an unyielding but ineffectual focus on maintaining nuclear parity with the US.  US soldiers have been training Georgian soldiers aboard the USS Stout in exercises ‘aimed at improving cooperation between two nations’.  The Other Russia reports that as the economic downturn increases public protests, the Kremlin has created a task force to ‘keep track of public attitudes’.

PHOTO: Natalya Estemirova, a human rights activist, speaks at a protest rally in Grozny, Chechnya, earlier this year.  She was kidnapped and killed in Chechnya, July 15, 2009.  Her body with gunshot wounds was found in the neighboring region of Ingushetia. (AP Photo)