- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Fascists have killed Anna Politkovskaya. She has been murdered by the same gang that three years ago poisoned another contributor to Novaya Gazeta, Yury Shchekochikhin. At that time those star-spangled FSB generals were still just petty thieves extorting protection money from furniture stores, without any particular ideological fig-leaf.

They got away with the murderofMr. Shchekochikhin and of many others. They became emboldened, acquired a taste for it, and the most enterprising of them, who by now were asset-stripping oil and gas companies, broke through into the charmed circle of the world’s richest people.

In order to maintain themselves on this vertiginous peak in a country one third of whose population lives below the poverty line, they need to fool the people, to point the finger at “enemies of the nation” — the West, Caucasians and other non-Russian peoples living in Russia, the few journalists still intrepid enough to criticize the Putin regime.

People are puzzled by the excesses of the campaign against Georgia, openly and energetically fanned personally by our head of state. From a geopolitical point of view it is counterproductive. Ethnic purges in the streets of Moscow irretrievably undermine Russia’s authority as a great state and will sour relations — not only with Georgia, but also with all our neighbors, for a long time to come.

On the other hand, these tactics appeal to the worst instincts of the mob and make it a significant force supporting the regime.

Our head of state, a lawyer by training, has introduced a new term — “the native people,” to which he contrasts “semi-gangster groupings that are sometimes also ethnically tinted.”

It would be difficult to make a more blatant appeal for racial attacks in a country already riven with ethnic divisions. Russia’s most active neo-Nazi organization, the Movement Against Illegal Immigration, promptly paid enthusiastic homage to Mr. Putin, seeing him as its ideological leader.

That Nazi, Alexander Dugin, who makes no secret of his infatuation with the esthetic and practice of Hitler’s SS, is never off the screen of the state television stations, having now been promoted to the position of one the leading official ideologists of the regime.

The last document over the signature of Anna Politkovskaya was an appeal to society and the state authorities to “Stop the Persecution of Georgia”’ I am proud of the fact that my signature is alongside hers.

Mrs. Politkovskaya knew that she was doomed in Mr. Putin’s Russia, and spoke about this on more than one occasion. Her revelations about the massive violations of human rights in Chechnya, which continue to this day, about the shameful behavior of the state authorities during the catastrophic hostage-takings of the audience of the Nord-Ost musical in Moscow and of schoolchildren and their teachers and parents in Beslan, were a red flag to the regime. There had already been more than one attempt to kill her.

It is symbolic, and was almost predictable, that she should be murdered in these dog days of the repulsive xenophobic bacchanalia that has seized Russia. This is a time when everybody, the human trash in the streets, the intellectual menials of the regime, has received from the “demons” ensconced in the Kremlin what Dostoyevsky called, “a dispensation to be dishonorable.” Some of those particularly inebriated by this right evidently decided to celebrate the birthday of their beloved president in their own way.

We have lost our most honorable, intrepid and talented colleague. What next? Go to the neo-Nazi Web site www.russianwill.org/material/vragi.html, which has existed unhindered on the Internet for many years now. You will find there photographs and home addresses of those they have condemned to death, and a call to carry out the sentence.

Sergey Kovalyov, Svetlana Gannushkina…there is a long list of names. They are the most honest and conscientious people in Russia. Will their turn be next?

I do not know. In the absence of free speech and effective democratic institutions, a growing responsibility rests on “intellectuals” who are today still collaborating with the regime. Will they continue to watch as our country slides toward Chekist fascism, or will they have the courage to say “no?”

A particularly disreputable role in abetting Russia’s descent has been played by the “statesmen” who are said to lead “democratic countries of the West.” They have known the answer to the famous question, “Who is Mr. Putin?” for a long time now. Anna Politkovskaya (among many others) warned them who they were dealing with. Her books have been translated both into English and French and have been widely reviewed.

But some of them want to participate in exploiting the Shtokman gas condensate deposit in the Barents Sea. Others seek Russian votes in the U.N. Security Council. And so they carry on pretending that Mr. Putin is a respected member of the club — their club — and one of Them. And worst of all, it may be true.

Andrei Piontkovsky is a visiting fellow at the Hudson Institute.

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