I see that in this week’s Sunday Times I share the dubious honour of being a columnist alongside Vladimir ‘Stalin’ Putin. I realise that good commentators on Russia are hard to find, mainly because he’s had them all murdered, but I am still horrified.
Since Putin came to power in 2000 fourteen journalists have died in questionable circumstances. I found his column dreary bordering on unreadable. I would have preferred to have read something by the brave and brilliant Anna Politkovskaya but she was gunned down in October last year in the lift of her apartment block. Putin was widely assumed to have ordered the killing due to her coverage of the Chechen war. The latest journalist to die was only a few weeks ago; Ivan Safronov, a military affairs correspondent for Kommersant “fell” from a window.
But Putin is not only murdering journalists. What is happening in Chechnya is beyond belief and now it seems he is not above attacking his own people. His police broke up two anti-government protests recently, arresting the key speakers and beating the protestors. Also reported in the Sunday Times this week was the fact that demonstrators were dragged off trains on their way to demos last week. So much for the “democracy” he so long-windedly drones on about in his less-than-riveting column. Instead of writing this drivel himself, which many of us on the Sunday Times are perfectly capable of doing, he should be allowing journalists in Russia the freedom to express their views without fear of extermination.
I wonder what I will be reading this week? Maybe a column on good farming policy by Robert Mugabe? ‘How to be nice to political dissidents’ by China’s Hu Jintao? ‘Look after your Nobel peace prize winners’ by Burma’s Than Schwe? I can hardly wait for next Sunday.
Copyright: Helena Frith Powell 2007