Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 2 Issue: 40

Writing in the October 26 issue of the newspaper Novye Izvestia, a well-known journalist, Valery Yakov, wrote that the Russian leadership, in an effort aggressively spearheaded by presidential spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembsky, had brought “overwhelming force” to bear on Russian journalists who were covering the war in Chechnya. Two years after the commencement of hostilities in the republic, the only intrepid reporters still prepared to “tell the truth about what was happening in Chechnya” were Anna Politkovskaya of Novaya Gazeta and Natal’ya Konovalova of his own paper. From them, “the reader learned the truth about punitive operations conducted by the federals, about villages wiped from the face of the earth, about mass executions of innocent people and about the disappearance of hundreds of peaceful civilians into the fortress walls of the ‘liberators.'” Now, Yakov noted, both of these journalists have been driven out of Russia.

Concerning Politkovskaya, Yakov wrote: “The military tried to catch Anna Politkovskaya. They placed her under arrest. They tried to frighten her. However, they were forced to release her because she had been taken into custody in the presence of witnesses. Then they began to try frighten her in Moscow.” Politkovskaya received credible death threats, and her editors felt required to take a decision to “send her out of Russia.”

As for Konovalova, the apparatus of presidential aide Yastrzhembsky sent letters to her editorial board warning that she “had not been accredited by the apparatus and was in the zone [Chechnya] illegally.” The hunt then began. “They did not succeed in catching her at a checkpoint as they had with [Radio Liberty correspondent Andrei] Babitsky…. The reason was a simple one: Konovalova is the pseudonym of a talented journalist, Zarina Zubairaeva…. Finally, they managed to identify Zarina. Armed men came at night to the apartment she had rented in Nazran [Ingushetia]. Zarina was at that time in Chechnya. After returning, she had to change apartments. But armed men… once again identified her address. And once again they failed to find her there. Zarina had to flee. Now she is in hiding far away from Chechnya.” Such, Yakov concluded, is the lamentable fate of glasnost in present-day Russia.