Chtodelat News has already reported on the recent attacks on Russia social and labor activists. The most serious of these assaults was made on Mikhail Beketov, the editor-in-chief of Khimkinskaya Pravda. Beketov has bravely campaigned to save the Khimki Forest from destruction, and has exposed the corruption of the local administration. Now he lies in a coma at Moscow’s Sklifosovsky Institute, badly beaten, one leg amputated, on the verge of death.
Below, we present a translation of a recent article on the Beketov case from the independent liberal newspaper Novaya Gazeta. Elena Kostyuchenko’s investigative report is not, however, run-of-the-mill journalism. Whether she intended it or not, her essay hearkens to the great nineteenth-century tradition of engaged writing represented by Tolstoy, Chekhov, and Vladimir Korolenko. “The Truth in Khimki” is not so much a reporting of facts as it is a portrait in miniature of a society in deep, continuing crisis and riven by violent, often lethal contradictions. Police who are less interested in solving crimes than in squelching “the opposition.” A population that (sometimes) knows the truth but, with few exceptions, is too frightened to speak out or act on what it knows. State officials who can’t be bothered to answer the charges made against the state and are quick to downplay the significance of the journalists making those charges. (Witness Putin’s public reaction to the murder of Anna Politkovskaya.) Neighbors who are so apathetic that they let a beaten man lie on the cold ground for two days before they call the police. Rightless migrants whose humanity is often more easily manifested than that of the fully endowed “citizens” who surround them. (Witness the Uzbek migrant worker who was the only person to come to the aid of a Tuvan journalist attacked by skinheads in the Petersburg subway, in December of last year.)
On a more pragmatic note, we should call attention to the fact that, at the end of the article, the newspaper’s editors provide information on how to donate money for Beketov’s medical care and donate blood for the transfusions he so badly needs. If you have the means or ability to help Beketov in this way, please do.
November 20, 2008
The Truth in Khimki
The police are afraid to investigate the attempted murder of journalist Mikhail Beketov
As this issue of the paper goes to press, Mikhail Beketov, the editor-in-chief of Khimkinskaya Pravda [The Khimki Truth], is alive. For the past four days, he has been the most serious case in the intensive care ward at the Sklifosovsky Institute. He has suffered a deep skull fracture as well as multiple fractures all over his body. His right leg has been amputated, and doctors are getting ready to amputate his crushed and frostbitten fingers. He is in a coma. His relatives say that Mikhail hears their voices. He tries to open his eyes; he shakes his head, straining to say something. The doctors advise his relatives not to get their hopes up—just muscle contractions, they say. The doctors have no idea why he is still alive.