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The Daily Vertical: A Decade Of Breaking Bad (Transcript)

  • Brian Whitmore

The views expressed in this commentary do not necessarily reflect the views of RFE/RL.

In a lot of ways, the trouble began a decade ago.

Ten years ago today, Anna Politkovskaya was gunned down in Moscow.

And 10 years ago next month, Aleksandr Litvinenko was poisoned with a rare radioactive isotope in downtown London.

The two were about as different as they come. But they were both thorns in the Kremlin's side.

Politkovskaya operated in the light.

As a crusading investigative journalist, she exposed malfeasance in the Kremlin and human rights abuses by Chechen strongman Ramzan Kadyrov's forces.

Litvinenko moved in the shadows.

A former member of Russia's security services who defected to Great Britain, he became an outspoken critic of Vladimir Putin's regime.

And when they both were killed in the fateful autumn of 2006, it sent a loud and clear message: no critics of Putin's regime are safe.

Not a journalist returning home from buying groceries; and not a defector with British citizenship sipping tea in a hotel bar in Mayfair.

In the autumn of 2006, Putin's regime crossed the line to the dark side.

In the wake of Politkovskaya came more assassinations: lawyer Stanislav Markelov, journalist Anastasia Baburova, human rights activist Natalya Estemirova, and of course opposition leader and former Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov.

And in the aftermath of Litvinenko's killing -- an assassination of a foreign citizen on foreign soil -- the Kremlin stopped even pretending to play by international rules.

Ever since, it's been a decade of breaking bad.

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