Sunday, 10 December 2006

Russia-Really Free?

Following the death of ex-KGB spy and Putin critic Alexander Litvinenko, it is time for the West to seriously start considering the freedom in post USSR Russia. This is a country where the media is run fully by the government, and for the benefit of Russian President, Vladimir Putin. As we have seen from the deaths of Putin critics throughout his reign in power, Russia is still very much state-controlled.

The death of Litvinenko is only one in a long line of assassinations of Putin critics. Barely two months ago, Anna Politkovskaya, a journalist exposing corruption within the Russian army, especially in Chechnya, was found dead outside her apartment. Putin responded by saying "her murder brings much more harm to the Russian authorities than her publications".

On top of these two murders, the Committee to Protect Journalists, a New York-based organisation promoting freedom of the press, called Russia the third most dangerous nation in which to be a journalist. The committee also said that Putin "has brought much of the once thriving post-Soviet media under indirect government control through the use of punitive tax audits and hostile takeovers. All three major television networks are now in the hands of Kremlin loyalists".

In July earlier this year, the All-Russian Public Opinion Research Centre did a survey of Putin's popularity in Russia. It reported that 87% of all Russians supported him as President, and 60% had full confidence in him up until and during the time the survey was conducted. Such numbers are never reached in other Western Liberal Democracies in peacetime.

Litvinenko, who worked for the FSB (the Intelligence Agency after the Soviet Union broke up), was a Russian dissident who fled to the UK for the final years of his life, where he wrote his books. In the UK, he was granted citizenship and political assylum. He accused the Russian government of the assassination of Boris Berezovsky, a billionaire.

In one of his books, Litvinenko stated that Putin's rise to power was a coup d'eat organised and carried out by the FSB.

Litvinenko was hospitalised on the 1st of November. He died three weeks later, of polonium-210 radiation poisoning.

Litvinenko's books include "Blowing up Russia: Terror from Within" and "Gang from Lubyanka". In both he makes allegations that the FSB were carrying out terrorist attacks in Russia and blaming the attacks on Chechen terrorists, and that Vladimir Putin was involved in organised crime. Litvinenko also accused Putin of being a paedophile. He stated that "all the bloodiest terrorists of the world" had connections to the FSB.

So how can a government that kills journalists and political dissents possibly be a Free Western Democracy? Until Putin removes his controls on the Russian media and brings the FSB under control (to stop it killing fellow Russians) his nation can't be considered "free" or a "democracy". However, we have to wait to see if that happens. Like my father said:

"The Communists have reinvented themselves as Fascists".

Sources: Wikipedia-Alexander Litvinenko, Vladimir Putin


Anonymous said...

Hi Callum,

Russia has never been "free" in the sense that we would understand the term, living in a liberal democracy. Some of the biggest safeguards we have are the rule of law, separation of power and independent media. These are reinforced and safeguarded by many years of legal precedent.

Russia does not have any of these things and this makes their democracy a very fragile one.

We can only hope that capitalism and the growth of a stronger middle class might stymie some of Putin's dictatorial impulses.


Kane Bunce said...

Well said, Callum. And your father is right.

Anon, don't delude yourself. We are not truly free even here in the Western world.

Callum said...

Kane, Anon IS my father. Both of you are quite right in the sense that Russia has never had the democratic safeguards we once had, and that the West has been going backwards for a long time now.

Kane Bunce said...

Oh, OK, I didn't know that what with him being an anon.