IN OTHER WORDS: Russian ruse

Those anxious about what can happen when prosecutors are subject to political manipulation need only consider the announcement on Monday by Russia’s chief prosecutor that 10 suspects have been arrested for the murder last October of the independent journalist Anna Politkovskaya, a fierce critic of Kremlin abuses in Chechnya. After meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, chief prosecutor Yuri Chaika told the press the murder was masterminded by a Chechen crime boss. The detainees included police officers and a lieutenant colonel of the FSB, the successor to the KGB.

Politkovskaya’s colleagues at the independent paper Novaya Gazeta intimated that the prosecutor’s allegations about the motive and the ultimate responsibility for the murder might lack a factual basis. They were being circumspect. The prosecutor’s conspiracy theory was a transparently political piece of disinformation. Kremlin’s theory is that a Chechen crime lord killed Politkovskaya, at the behest of an expatriate oligarch, to destabilise Putin’s strong state. This version serves the interests of that state better than an independent legal process. After all, that may show she was killed to stop her reporting on the Kremlin’s human rights abuses in Chechnya, and the links between criminal gangs and the security services.