From Russia with Love


Another ally-turned-enemy of the Kremlin is offed, this time in Dubai. The New York Times has details:

A former general in Chechnya and foe of the republic's Kremlin-backed president was shot over the weekend in the Persian Gulf emirate of Dubai, and the police there said Monday that he had died.

The former general, Sulim B. Yamadayev, was shot at least three times outside an elite apartment complex in Dubai in what appeared to be an assassination, the police said, but it was unclear exactly when the attack took place.

The identity of the man who was killed was the subject of conflicting reports. Officials of the hospital in Dubai said that two Chechen brothers, whose names were not released, had been shot during the attack. One died, they said, while the other was in critical condition.

The attack evokes others on Chechens, in Russia and abroad, who ran afoul of President Ramzan A. Kadyrov and his government.

The Kremlin has invested Mr. Kadyrov with almost unchecked authority in a bid to return stability to Chechnya after nearly a decade of bloody war and political turmoil. With Moscow's blessing, Mr. Kadyrov has created a personality cult and imposed his own interpretation of Islamic morality in Chechnya, whose population is predominately Muslim.

Yesterday on MSNBC's "Morning Joe," The Nation editor Katrina vanden Heuvel claimed that everything wrong with today's Russia "started under Boris Yeltsin," including the authoritarianism of the current regime. For all of his flaws—and there were many, though David Boaz's obituary strikes just the right balance—it is nevertheless silly to argue that Yeltsin's Russia alone midwifed the current system, while ignoring its uniquely Putinist characteristics (and equally absurd to not acknowledge Russia's rather more serious pre-Yeltsin legacy of authoritarianism).  

In setting up the crony capitalist system following the fall of the Soviet Union, Yeltsin looted state coffers, says vanden Heuvel. When challenged by host Joe Scaraborough, who says Putin has done much the same to Russia, she is dismissive ("No, no. No, no"). When it is suggested that the Kremlin was involved in the assassination of journalists, including Putin critic Anna Politskaya, she shakes her head and tell Scarborough that the "rot started in Chechnya." One reporter for Novoya Gazeta, a paper vanden Heuvel recently visited while in Moscow and holds up as an example of Russia's free press, told Reuters that "prosecutors had tried to solve the case and were ordered to back off when the trail led to someone 'quite high up in the ruling hierarchy.'" But when the deaths of journalist Anastasia Baburova and lawyer Stanislav Markelov are discussed, vanden Heuvel quickly assigns blame to "neo-Nazis," though no arrests have been made in the case and many at Novoya Gazeta, where Baburova worked, suspect government involvement. Video below: