The News That Doesn’t Get Reported
Published: February 12, 2008 (Issue # 1347)
There is something very strange about the way news is presented in Russia. On one hand, there is news that we are all aware of — news of Medvedev meeting with dairy farmers, for example, or Medvedev outlawing inflation and increasing pensions.
But there is another type of news that distinguishes Russia from most countries in the West. I’m speaking of the news that doesn’t exist.
For example, a few years ago former FSB General Anatoly Trofimov and his wife were gunned down in front of their home in an apparent contract murder. Trofimov had been working for investment company Gruppa Finvest for a few years prior to his shooting.
In the United States, if a gangster kills a law enforcement official — and not merely another gangster — he is a marked man. The police will go to all lengths to hunt him down and bring him to justice. But, in Russia, there is no news concerning Trofimov’s murder even though it should have been a simple case to solve.
Hired killers used similar methods to get rid of Nazim Kaziakhmetov, an investigator with the Prosecutor General’s Office who had been investigating the criminal fraud case against Finvest.
Even before former security agent Alexander Litvinenko was poisoned in London, President Vladimir Putin’s former head of security in St. Petersburg, Roman Tsepov, was also poisoned. Tsepov thought he had a free hand to meddle in important Kremlin business affairs, including the Magnitogorsk Iron and Steel Works and Yukos.
Although Tsepov had been fairly close to the president, he apparently overestimated Putin’s loyalty to him. It seems that Putin should have ordered an investigation to find out who killed his friend, but not a peep has been heard from the media about the case.
In addition, a former department head at the Federal Property Management Agency, Sergei Korolko, was stabbed to death in Novosibirsk on April 11, 2005. Korolko was a high-ranking government official in charge of selling off property confiscated in criminal investigations. It is not difficult to guess who might have had an ax to grind with Korolko, but you won’t hear any news about the investigation into that case.
About a month ago, the body of VTB managing director Oleg Zhukovsky was found at the bottom of the swimming pool at his luxury dacha in Odintsovo, just outside Moscow. Although Zhukovksy’s arms and legs had been tied up and a plastic bag was tied around his head, his death was classified as a suicide. Moreover, the police carried out a thorough investigation to try to understand how Zhukovsky could have possibly tied his own hands behind his back. But where is the media coverage of this crime?
Of course, I understand that Tsepov, Trofimov and Korolko might not have been the easiest people to get along with and that Zhukovsky was probably no angel either. Nonetheless, the basic principles of a civil society dictate that it is wrong to kill a former FSB general, a friend of the president, a top government official or a managing director of a bank; they also dictate that the details of the investigation — or the lack of investigation — into these crimes should be reported in the mainstream media.
Not long ago in St. Petersburg, the poisoned bodies of two Federal Drug Control Service agents were found near a bridge. Less than an hour before their deaths, the men were having dinner at a restaurant. Their colleagues paid for dinner using credit cards. It should have been an open and shut case, but no leads have been reported in the media.
Although there is virtually no media coverage on these high-profile killings, we are bombarded almost every day with information about an entirely different topic — the strengthening of Putin’s power vertical, the increase in law and order and the way Putin has returned stability to the country after a decade of lawlessness, corruption and chaos.
Yulia Latynina hosts a political talk show on Ekho Moskvy radio.