Rice in Russia

October 22, 2006

On Anna Politkovskaya

Condoleezza Rice has met with the family of Anna Politkovskaya and the editor-in-chief of Novaya Gazeta in Moscow. The move was meant to show support for the remains of the free press in Russia.

Politkovskaya is an investigative reporter who was gunned down at her appartment building two weeks ago. Fingers have been pointed at the government, as she has been active in Chechnya and obviously had unfavourable things to say about Russia’s handling of the conflict. However, it is hard to imagine the government conspiring to kill her, because her death has done her more harm than her reporting — the paper she writes for is not as influential, nor does she represent a mainstream trend.

In that sense, it is fair to say that the press is no longer free in Russia: if a reporter like Anna Politkovskaya has to settle for Novaya Gazeta (and not, Pravda, Moskovskiy Komsomolets or even the Nezavisimaya Gazeta), it means that other publications are being persuaded to publish a different kind of reporting. And her reporting severely differed from what was being written by other reporters on Chechnya.

One of the biggest failures of the Russian democracy under President Putin has been the inability to truly foster an independent press. The press itself is independent enough in terms of ownership, but what gets written is sometimes too close to the executive line.

On Georgia

In a slight change of town, the Secretary of State has commented the Russia-Georgia conflict by saying she hopes for a “de-escalation” and wishes that both sides have “cooler heads” over the issue. No longer is the finger being pointed directly at Russia: after all, the Secretary of State cannot criticize Russia for imposing sanctions on Georgia, if she is to ask Russia to do the same for North Korea.

North Korea

No announcements have been made vis-à-vis Russia’s position on the North Korea situation. This was the main reason for Condoleezza Rice’s visit to the Russian capital.