The Choosy Goddess of Justice

From Irina Filatova on the Guardian’s Comment is Free:

Many in Russia compare Budanov’s case with that of Svetlana Bakhmina, a legal executive in the firm of the former tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky and mother of three children. She also applied for release on the grounds of good behaviour, but her requests were denied.

For the Russian goddess of justice is choosy: she usually bestows mercy only on those who are popular with the Russian authorities. Budanov is. He is very popular among Russia’s military and he has a huge following in the broader society. Bakhmina has none of the above.

Minutes before his death, Markelov told reporters that he planned to challenge Budanov’s release, which has prompted street protests in Chechnya attended by both sides of the political divide – human rights activists and representatives of the Chechen pro-Moscow party. There is hardly any doubt that Budanov’s assurances that he has nothing to do with the murder are sincere. But whatever the future official verdict, Markelov’s assassination is seen both in Russia and Chechnya as a message from Budanov’s supporters to the whole of Russian society: don’t count on the law. We are the law in this country. We define who lives and who dies.