While some of my media comrades are busy addressing the supposedly ineffable (Who's the mommy?), and awaiting the predictable (tonight's speeches), I'll take this moment to catch up on the goings-on in Putin's Russia. We'll start with opposition journalist Magomed Yevloyev, who ran afoul of local leaders in Ingushetia and was "accidently" shot in the head by the Russian police. As The Economist noted, "even by Russia's recent bloody standards, it was a brazen killing." The BBC has details:
According to a lawyer close to the website, Mr Yevloyev was detained by police after landing at Nazran airport late on Sunday. They took him away in a car, Reuters reports. "As they drove he was shot in the temple… They threw him out of the car near the hospital," Kaloi Akhilgov said.
Then there is the case of itinerant English teacher Michael White, who stands accused of fomenting war between Russia and Georgia. According to Kremlin officials, White's passport was captured on the battlefield by Russian forces. Nonsense, White says. From the WSJ:
The passport the Russians showed off last week does appear to have been Mr. White's. He says it looks to be the one he accidentally left in the seat pocket of a Moscow-New York flight in October 2005. "It seems probable that some Russian person on the flight picked it up," says Mr. White.
The U.S. State Department confirms Mr. White reported the passport missing in 2005 and that it was canceled. Mr. White was issued a new U.S. passport that year, and another in 2008, both of which he showed a reporter.
Milton Bearden, a highly decorated former CIA operative, dismissed the notion that an intelligence agent with any intelligence would carry his passport with him in the field, much less lose it. He characterized the Russian claims as "slapstick," saying that if a passport is going to be held up as evidence of U.S. meddling, "it shouldn't belong to some guy teaching English in China."
Alexei Kondaurov, a KGB veteran and critic of the Kremlin, said that "using a 'found' passport to expose the Americans seems really small-time," adding that "the Soviet Union's secret services never stooped that low."
From The Guardian's Russia correspondent Luke Harding comes this fascinating piece, in which he writes that "In South Ossetia, I witnessed the worst ethnic cleansing since the war in the Balkans." For those unfamiliar with The Guardian's politics, it should be mentioned that they have been predictably hostile to Georgian president Mikheil Saakashvili, their editorial page editor writing that the Georgia conflict was some sort of neoconservative setup. A snippet from Harding:
Refugees from Karaleti and nearby villages gave the same account: South Ossetian militias had swept in on August 12, killing, burning, stealing and kidnapping. Sasha, our Kremlin minder, however, had a different explanation. "Georgian special commandos burned the houses," he told us. I demurred, pointing out that it was unlikely Georgian special commandos would have burned down Georgian villages north of Tskhinvali, deep inside rebel-held South Ossetia. Sasha's face grew dark; he wasn't used to contradiction. "Those houses suffered from a gas or electricity leak," he answered majestically.