Also today, the State Duma voted 233 to 77 to reject a proposal by the Union of Right-Wing Forces (SPS) that the body take up the plight of missing Radio Liberty journalist Andrei Babitsky. The measure was opposed by the pro-Kremlin factions–Unity, People’s Deputy, and Vladimir Zhirinovsky’s ultranationalists–and by the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (KPRF). Following the vote, one SPS leader, former Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov, said “the communist are voting against, because for them, one individual person has always been a cog in the large state machine, and Duma midget Zhirinovsky and the pro-Kremlin deputies are voting against because the Kremlin is obviously involved in Babitsky’s fate” (Russian agencies, February 11).
On February 9, the Duma voted down a proposal to send a parliamentary inquiry to Putin concerning Babitsky. In explaining Unity’s opposition to the measure, Boris Gryzlov, who heads Unity’s faction in the Duma, said that Aleksandr Gurov, one of Unity’s leaders and a former Interior Ministry general, had already sent an inquiry concerning Babitsky to that ministry, the Prosecutor General’s Office and other agencies, and that the issue was not important enough to be taken up by the head of state. Gryzlov added that Radio Liberty is “an organization known to us, and I do not believe that this issue should be examined more deeply than similar problems with journalists in past years.” For his part, KPRF leader Gennady Zyuganov said that he felt sorry for Babitsky’s wife and family, and for the correspondent himself “as a person.” Zyuganov, along with the rest of the KPRF leadership, did not take part in the vote on Nemtsov’s initiative (Russian agencies, February 9; Vremya-MN, February 10).
RUSSIAN OFFICIALS INSIST BABITSKY IS “ALIVE AND WELL.”