Proof and responsibility

Donald Trump’s latest comments on Putin and the press:

“If he has killed reporters I think that’s terrible,” Trump replied. “But this isn’t like somebody that’s stood with a gun and he’s taken the blame or he’s admitted that he’s killed. He’s always denied it.

“It’s never been proven that he’s killed anybody, so you know you’re supposed to be innocent until proven guilty at least in our country he has not been proven that he’s killed reporters.”

Technically speaking, Trump is correct: it is impossible to investigate Putin’s possible involvement in any of the assassinations as long as he is in power, hence it is impossible to prove anything. However, the Kremlin is responsible for not sending the message – at least to government officials – that all such crimes would be investigated and the perpetrators punished, without exception.

Five years ago, Oleg Kashin, a major-league investigative journalist, barely survived a brutal beating in Moscow. As the investigation progressed, two men were charged in June 2015 with attempting to kill Kashin; one more suspect went into hiding. Kashin suspected that the attack had been ordered by the governor of the Pskov region, Andrei Turchak, possibly in retaliation for an unflattering blog post. But the governor was not even questioned by the investigators.

To interrogate the head of a region, investigators need the Kremlin’s sanction: so far it has been withheld in the Kashin-Turchak case. Realizing that the governor was getting immunity from any official inquiry, Kashin sent this open letter to Putin and Medvedev, accusing them of siding with his attackers. It helps explain why and how the Kremlin is responsible for the violence against journalists.

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