NPR FOR THE DEF: We Hear It Even When U Can’t


Media suppression, corruption and the murder of political rivals have marked the regime of Vladimir Putin, who is running for his third term as president in Russia’s election next week. Despite mass demonstrations, he’s expected to win. How Putin rose to power is spelled out in Russian journalist Masha Gessen‘s new book, The Man Without a Face: The Unlikely Rise of Vladimir Putin. She says Putin, a KGB operative with little government experience before he was first elected in 1999, was specifically selected by the elite cohort that surrounded former President Boris Yeltsin. Over the years, Putin has created an image of himself as a “street thug,” she says, and has made systematic efforts to dismantle the country’s democracy and independent media. In 2004, Vladimir Gusinsky, the head of the largest private media company in Russia, was arrested after a series of raids on his headquarters. Putin’s government alleged that Gusinsky had participated in illegal activity involving an obscure television company. Gessen, who was investigating the story, says the attack on Gusinsky was actually in retaliation for reporting information Putin didn’t want to get out. Gusinsky fled Russia, which is still fighting for his extradition. Gessen, who was reporting on the story, received a threatening call from a prosecutor in the case. “I went ahead and published the story, but as soon as the story came out, I discovered somebody outside the door of my apartment — 24 hours a day — and I would ask this man what he was doing there, and he would say ‘fixing,'” she says. “My phone was cut off, and I was told there was a warrant out for the search of my apartment.” MORE

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