Journalists' Death Make It Harder To Excuse Putin's Excesses

The New York Times

On Friday night, I got a call from Moscow: my friend Paul Klebnikov, the editor in chief of Forbes Russia, a Russian version of the American business magazine, had been fatally shot as he left work. Paul's wife, Musa, was in Italy with their three children and had just spoken to him on the phone before he was shot. She was heartbreakingly brave the next day. Please gather articles about her husband, she asked, for his boys.

Then the anger rose. I am among those former Moscow correspondents, and those people of Russian descent, who have tried to stay optimistic about today's Russia and President Vladimir Putin, even in the face of all the distressing reports about Chechnya, the Yukos oil company, the media clampdown and the swelling powers of the Kremlin. You have to remember where they were a scant 15 years ago, I would argue: Mr. Putin has to restore control over the government and economy, and the oligarchs have to be reined in.

It will be far harder to argue this, now that someone has pumped four bullets into a journalist who earnestly thought that he could help Russia make it by writing the truth about its dark underside. It's tough to continue pretending that Russia is just in transition, struggling to emerge from Communism's rubble. Twenty journalists have now been assassinated in Russia for their work; 14 since Mr. Putin became president. Not one of the murders has been solved.
Liberal Oasis points out that "Bush's curtailing of support for democracy is worsening the situation".