Russian President Vladimir Putin
turned 54 on October 7, and he got what for him is a nice birthday present to add to his collection.
One of his few critics still alive in the Russian media, Anna Politkovskaya
, was gunned down in her apartment building.
Anna was one of my heroes. She is at least the twelfth journalist critical of Putin to be murdered.
Two of the others - Yuri Shchekochikhin
of Literaturnaya Gazeta
, who was poisoned; Paul Klebnikov
magazine, who was shot to death in the street - were my friends. As was State Duma member Galina Starovoitova
of St. Petersburg who was murdered in the stairway of her apartment, much as Anna was.
I remember clearly how Putin, a St. Petersburg native who was then Russia's internal security chief, pledged to take personal control of the investigation of Galina's death. The authors of her assassination remain at large.
Two weeks ago, Anna had been poisoned. Her killers succeeded in time for Putin to celebrate his birthday.
Most of Russia's journalists who criticize Putin are either silenced, in exile, or dead. That should tell us something about the nature of Russia's government today.