Leading article: Killing exposes the true face of modern Russia

The Kremlin's outrage over Natalia Estemirova's murder rings hollow

Share
Related Topics

Uncovering the truth is a lethal business in Russia and its republics. Another independent human rights activist, Natalia Estemirova, was assassinated this week. She was abducted from near her home in Grozny, the Chechen capital, on Wednesday. Her body was found in the neighbouring state of Ingushetia later that day; she had been shot in the head. Ms Estemirova's death adds to the growing tally of courageous activists and independent journalists who have been assassinated in Russia in recent years.

Ms Estemirova knew the risks of revealing evidence of human rights abuses in modern Russia as much as anybody. She had experienced threats on more than one occasion. But that does not make her killing any less appalling – or any less damning of the political culture that prevails in her homeland.

There was stern condemnation of the killing from the Russian authorities this week. President Dmitry Medvedev declared his "outrage" at the crime, and the Chechen President, Ramzan Kadyrov, vowed that he would lead the investigation into Ms Estemirova's death. But there were similar promises following the murder of the investigative journalist Anna Politkovskaya, who was shot in her Moscow apartment building in 2006, and still no one has been convicted of that murder. Two Chechen men were acquitted of involvement in the crime in February after a farce of a trial. With each unsolved killing, the question grows more insistent: does there exist any genuine desire on the part of either the Russian or Chechen authorities to see the perpetrators of these crimes brought to justice?

Many powerful people in Grozny and Moscow had reason to want Ms Estemirova silenced. She had uncovered numerous human rights abuses by the Chechen authorities – cases of torture, disappearances and extra-judicial killing. She had recently completed an investigation for Human Rights Watch into the Chechen authorities' practice of burning the homes of those suspected of having links to rebel groups. She speaks of these crimes in her final article, which we publish today.

Ms Estemirova was also adept at persuading victims and witnesses to testify in court cases – a considerable skill in a region cowed by the fear of official retribution. No one seriously doubts that she was targeted because of her work in exposing government abuses.

The Kremlin likes to portray Chechnya as a success story of modern Russia – a region being rapidly rebuilt after two decades of terrible conflict. The former Russian president and now Prime Minister, Vladimir Putin, declared in front of the Chechen parliament following the 2005 election that "peace has come to the republic". But this "peace" has been achieved by putting the region under the control of a brutal gangster regime. Human rights are routinely abused by the security forces, there is impunity for lawbreakers, and brave individuals such as Ms Estemirova – who tell the world what is really going on – end up dead.

The Kremlin might put on a show of concern about such high-profile killings, but it has shown no inclination to force its Chechen subordinates to change their ways. The Russian government's tight control of the national media show its essential antithesis to the kind of open, democratic society Ms Estemirova was fighting for. Her murder exposes the true face of Chechnya, and modern Russia, and it is not a pretty sight.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Clinical Negligence Solicitor

Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: HAMPSHIRE MARKET TOWN - A highly attr...

Network Engineer (CCNP, CCNA, Linux, OSPF, BGP, Multicast, WAN)

£35000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Network Engineer (CCNP, CCNA, Linux, OSPF,...

Commercial Property Solicitor - Bristol

Highly Attractive Package: Austen Lloyd: A VERY HIGH QUALITY FIRM A high qual...

DevOps Engineer (Systems Administration, Linux, Shell, Bash)

£50000 per annum: Harrington Starr: DevOps Engineer (Systems Administration, L...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

The power of anonymity lies in the freedom it grants

Boyd Tonkin
Rebel fighters walk in front of damaged buildings in Karam al-Jabal neighbourhood of Aleppo on August 26, 2014.  

The Isis threat must be confronted with clarity and determination

Ed Miliband
Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

The phoney war is over

Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

Salomé: A head for seduction

Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

British Library celebrates all things Gothic

Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

In search of Caribbean soul food

Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
11 best face powders

11 best face powders

Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone