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Political Killings and the Double Standard: The Different Ways Political Killings Get Reported in Ukraine and Russia

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of this site. This site does not give financial, investment or medical advice.

Yet another journalist has just been killed in Ukraine, this time Pavel Sheremet, who was blown up by a bomb planted in a car he was driving in downtown Kiev.

I predict that this murder will receive little attention or condemnation in the West.  Other murders of opposition activists and journalists which have happened in Ukraine since the Maidan coup have received scant attention.  There is no reason to expect this one to be treated any differently.

This of course is in sharp contrast to the way deaths and killings of opposition figures and journalists in Russia in the West become a major news story, with huge campaigns following the deaths of people like Anna Politovskaya and Boris Nemtsov.

The situations in Ukraine and Russia are not in fact comparable.  Political killings in Russia were very common in the 1990s, and continued to be so for a time after Putin came to power.  They have now largely tailed off as order in the country has been restored, and they are today very uncommon.  That is one reason why the murder of Boris Nemtsov last year was for many Russians so shocking, even though he had long since ceased to be a significant political figure.  By contrast political killings in Ukraine are today a commonplace.

Another important difference is that in Russia political killings are big news.  Thousands of people turned out for Nemtsov’s funeral – by no means all of them his supporters – and his killing attracted heavy media attention in Russia as well as in the West.  By contrast political killings in Ukraine are now so common they encounter large-scale indifference.

Lastly, there is one further difference.  In Russia the authorities take political killings very seriously.  Politkovskaya’s murderers were caught after a painstaking investigation and were recently tried and convicted for her murder, even though there are still unanswered questions and the person who is believed to have been behind her killing has still not been named.  The Russian police have also arrested a group of people they say carried out the killing of Boris Nemtsov, though the investigation is still incomplete and the case has not yet gone to trial.

By contrast in Ukraine the authorities generally simply go through the motions of investigating such murders.  On a few occasions they have even publicly criticised the victim whilst doing so – something which merit justified outrage if it were ever done in Russia.

However it is in the silence of the Western media that the difference is most stark.  The one occasion where the Western media did finally – after some initial hesitation – stir itself up to complain about Ukrainian actions against journalists was not when a particular Ukrainian journalist or political activist was killed in Ukraine, and much less when a particular Russian journalist has been killed Ukraine (there have been many such cases).  It is when a Ukrainian ultra nationalist website involved with ultra right wing groups that many suspect are behind the killings published details of Western journalists who have travelled to the militia controlled areas of the Donbass.  That incident did provoke complaints and eventual action by the Ukrainian government. 

In other words the Western media acted to protect its own. Where the killing of Ukrainians or Russians is concerned by contrast it shows indifference.

The killing of Sheremet will not change the situation in Ukraine.  These sort of killings are now so common that one more or less will make no difference.  However it does show what a profoundly violent and unstable place Ukraine has become.

It also shows something else.  That is how dangerous even the mildest form of criticism or opposition activity in Ukraine has become.  This is something people need to bear in mind when they consider the political situation in Ukraine, and when they judge the political views individual Ukrainians express in public or even in opinion polls.


The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of this site. This site does not give financial, investment or medical advice.

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