Kudos to Clifford J. Levy at the Times for doing a big report this week on the preposterously offensive trial launched against Oleg Orlov of Memorial in relation to his accusation of Ramzan Kadyrov’s alleged role in the killing of human rights activist Natalia Estemirova. This judicial travesty does just as much to explain the functioning of the Russian corruption system as the events over at Khamovnichesky.
Mr. Kadyrov’s attempt to silence Mr. Orlov reflects an increasingly common tactic in Russia. The authorities do not summarily imprison their critics as dissidents, as in Communist times. They instead often invoke an array of civil and criminal charges, including defamation, to exact financial penalties or prison sentences. They haul their opponents before judges who are wary of handing down decisions against those in power.
Mr. Kadyrov, who denies any connection to Ms. Estemirova’s killing, rules unchallenged in Chechnya. Still, he has portrayed Memorial as a treacherous and violent organization. In seeking charges against Mr. Orlov in Moscow, 1,000 miles from Chechnya, he effectively quashed the idea that the Russian capital offers sanctuary for those pursuing human rights issues in remote regions. No one from the Kremlin has come to Mr. Orlov’s defense.
Mr. Kadyrov’s lawyer, who under the law can work with the prosecution during the proceedings, has even used the trial to promote his own black-is-white theory of Ms. Estemirova’s death. “Maybe Memorial itself ordered the killing” to discredit Mr. Kadyrov, said the lawyer, Andrei A. Krasnenkov.