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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Remembering the Ones Mercilessly Cut Down

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In response to "Politkovskaya Gunned Down Near Home," by Carl Schreck and David Nowak on Oct. 9.

It is always sad when a colleague in the press sacrifices his or her life for that which they love and cherish so dearly, and believe in even more -- the truth. Investigative journalist Anna Politkovskaya dedicated her life to filtering through to the truth no matter how dangerous or inconvenient the exercise turned out to be. For those of us who knew her, her work, her commitment to going up against mountains of corruption and her steadfastness in getting the story right, she has our endless praise.

It is ironic that Anna stood for courage and her murderers have none. That Anna risked all and her murderers concluded that her death would silence truth and limit freedom. That her murderers thought that her reporting was over because of this senseless act when Anna's ultimate sacrifice only revitalizes and empowers other journalists to work even more diligently. Because of their myopic thinking, what the assassins seem not to comprehend is that the light becomes bolder, brighter and more laser-focused after a senseless death such as Anna's. Acts such as these unleash an international commitment by journalists to turn the tide.

Today in Russia, corruption, poverty, splits between those who have and have not are wide and growing. Military corruption is off the charts. Drug, weapons, and human trafficking has spread faster and further since the fall of communism, and former KGB operatives are smack in the middle of this trade -- not just in Russia or the former Soviet bloc, but everywhere these cells have flourished -- in places like Hungary, Israel and as far away as Johannesburg. The collaboration from above with a nod and a wink has expanded this madness. Let Anna's death not go in vain. It is time for ever more vigilant reporting on the thugs who thought that her death would create a gate for escaping the truth.

Anna's commitment is a shining example for all of us in journalism.

Christine Dolan
U.S. investigative journalist and former political director of CNN.

They can kill the messenger. But the message lives on, especially when the message is truth.

Dieter Fischer
Adelaide, Australia

Deeply Missed

In response to "Senior Central Banker Shot Dead,"by Richard Balmforth on Sept. 14.

Andrei Kozlov, deputy governor of the Central Bank of Russia, died last month of wounds sustained from what seems to be a successful assassination attempt. Russians are shocked because contract killings had become few and far between recently -- a trend that seems to have reversed itself. Government officials are stepping up their own security, while international news outlets run this as the second or third key story.

I'm mourning a good man, cut down in his prime, because, it seems, he stuck to his principles and was a nice guy.

Andrei really was a nice guy. He entered my life, unexpectedly, on a cold and raw November evening in 2001. In those days, I didn't know anything about politics or big business in Russia, so I did not recognize him when he approached me about working for him. I didn't know he was one of Russia's leading central bankers or a key participant in the founding of Russia's capital markets. He loved that.

Andrei's enthusiasm for the project he came to pitch eclipsed the warning bells that went off in my head. He wanted me to help him radically change the travel business in Russia through the establishment of a tourism arm of a major Russian travel brand. He had been appointed CEO and wanted me as his executive director in charge of building international partnerships. I eventually agreed. We made an odd pair: the banker who yearned to build a hands-on business and the Western travel professional who was naive about the realities of doing business in Russia. Depressingly predictably, sharks soon surrounded us and the impossible dream blew up in our faces in the space of six months. Andrei realized this immediately and resigned unequivocally and publicly. I loved that.

The six months, however, remain in my mind as exhilarating and fun. Andrei was exacting and demanding, but earned my lasting respect by knowing when and how to ask for help -- a quality not always readily extant in Russian bureaucrats. He confided in me early and often about his lack of hands-on knowledge of the tourism industry and often asked me to help him bridge the gap. We spent a hilarious afternoon in a Moscow business hotel pretending to inspect 5-star seaside Turkish resorts professionally so he would be prepared for an upcoming trip. He loved Starbuck's coffee, and any business trip to London invariably started perched on a tall stool to strategize about the day over fat-free blueberry muffins and tall skinny lattes. I hope he managed to enjoy owning an iPod before he died. He would have adored the combination of functionality, organization and design.

We parted ways and moved on: he back to the Central Bank and me eventually into financial PR -- the latter development he gloated over with avuncular glee. He remained curiously accessible, always responding to jokes forwarded to his account and greeting me at global financial conferences with sincere delight and a big hug. When I told him I felt the beard he'd grown was not entirely becoming to him, he confided sotto voce that he agreed but needed it to enhance his maturity.

Andrei was a very nice guy. It comes to me as no surprise that he was leaving a team-building activity when he was struck down. He believed passionately in the responsibility of a leader to his employees, just as he vehemently adhered to his principles of integrity and honesty in his professional and personal life.

Andrei was an extremely nice guy. And nice guys, in Russia as everywhere, do finish last. Rest in peace.

Jennifer Buttenheim

Remembering Babi Yar

In response to "Babi Yar Remembered 65 Years Later,"by Mara D. Bellaby on Sept. 27.

At the end of Septemner, I had the opportunity to serve on a delegation to the 65th anniversary of the Nazi massacre at Babi Yar from the NCSJ, an advocacy group on behalf of Jews in the former Soviet Union.

Babi Yar was a seminal event in the Holocaust. Over two days, Sept. 27 and 28, 1941, the Nazis, with the help of Ukrainian collaborators, murdered 33,371 Jews in a ravine on the outskirts of the city. The victims, including thousands of children, were led to the ravine 10 at a time, beaten for sport, stripped naked, and then shot with machine guns. A member of our delegation said that from 10 to 15 percent of the victims actually died of suffocation as a result of the crushing force of the dead bodies heaped on top of them.

Rabbi Meir Lau, the former chief Rabbi of Israel and a Holocaust survivor himself, said that Babi Yar's significance rests in the fact that it was Hitler's test case for the Final Solution. When the world did not react to Babi Yar, a green light was given to the Nazis that they could go forward with the mass extermination of the Jewish people and no one would lift a finger to stop them.

Under Soviet occupation, there was no mention of Jewish genocide at Babi Yar. The program last week was sponsored and publicized by the Ukrainian government in partnership with the World Holocaust Forum, a foundation financed by prominent Russian Jewish philanthropist Moshe Kantor. Billboards and signs highlighting the commemoration were everywhere. Our four-person delegation met with Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko, whose father was a survivor of Auschwitz as a Red Army prisoner of war, the prime minister and other senior government officials.

Yet there was still ample evidence of anti-Semitism in Ukraine. Anti-Semitic literature was being sold in the square of the Orange Revolution; a pro-Nazi group handed out anti-Semitic fliers at the main Babi Yar event; a graffiti swastika could be seen as we entered the walkway to the Jewish Babi Yar memorial. When we met with government officials, the conversation frequently turned to MAUP, the leading private university in Ukraine, which bestowed an honorary degree on David Duke, former leader of the Knights of the Klu Klux Klan. The ceremony at the Jewish memorial at the ravine was not attended by senior Ukrainian government officials, who chose instead to come to the Soviet monument in a park nearby. One senior Israeli official attributed this to "internal political realities."

We went to Babi Yar to commemorate and honor the memory of those massacred 65 years ago. There are concrete signs that Ukraine is making progress in addressing its Jewish past, but much more needs to be done.

Adam Pechter
NCSJ Board Member
Princeton, New Jersey

Questionable Acumen

In response to "Saakashvili is Playing a High-Stakes Game," a comment by Fyodor Lukyanov on Oct. 4.

I was very surprised to read that, apparently, Georgia is "demonstrating a tactical acumen" and that Russia "is playing into Saakashvili's hands." Lukyanov doesn't take into consideration the relationship between Georgia's increasing Russia-baiting and the severe problems with the export of Georgia's wine, mineral water and unemployed workers to Russia, along with the end of subsidized energy supplies from Russia.

If Saakashvili wants to help solve Georgia's social and economic problems, then this charade only works in the opposite direction. What sort of a tactical acumen is that?

Perhaps Lukyanov admits as much himself by strictly considering only Saakashvili's populist, PR, and foreign policy maneuverings, instead of the positive social and economic changes his policies could still bring for Georgians -- both in Georgia and Russia. Would rational voters, burdened by everyday concerns, vote for this kind of "tactical acumen?"

Unfortunately, it appears that these mundane worries are not part of his or Lukyanov's "high stakes."

Leon Rozmarin
Hopedale, Massachusetts

2nd Better Than Nothing

In response to "Europe's Second Tier," a column by Boris Kagarlitsky on Oct. 5.

I am dismayed by the Russian government-backed repression of Georgians that seems to be taking place after the diplomatic row. You call Russia a free and democratic country where "mafia bosses" and "restaurant crooks" are "caught" just because they are Georgian and Russia happens to have a problem with Georgia?

The column preaches about the fact that an enlarged Europe is becoming an empire rather than a democracy. However, I have yet to hear about any European country that is arresting and detaining citizens of another country because of a diplomatic row. Did the Russian police have to wait for this problem before they could arrest the Georgian bad guys?

The U.S. government took advantage of its extended power and the fears of its people after Sept. 11, and we all know what happened because people were too scared to oppose the government. I hope the Russian people will wake up.

I am a Romanian who has lived in North America and now lives in Asia. I am extremely surprised at the lack of outside criticism of Russia's actions against Georgia and Georgians living inside Russia. I hope the rest of the world will not be cowed by the tough rhetoric coming from the Kremlin.

This relates back to the column about Romania and Bulgaria joining the European Empire as second-class members. As a Romanian, I am looking forward to being even a second-class citizen of Europe. That way I will not have to be afraid of someday having to live in the shadow of the Russian Empire. At least with Europe there is a chance that I won't have to be involved in repression against Georgians or others when Russia has a problem with Georgia or some other country.

Before criticizing Europe for undemocratic and hegemonic behavior, Russia should clean up its own act. Only in that way can it become a credible partner globally.

Constantin Siriteanu
Seoul, South Korea

Even More to It

In response to "Corporate Social Responsibility: More Than Just Charity," by Mark Thompson on Sept. 28.

It was with great interest that I turned to the piece by Mark Thompson, but that interest and appreciation of were reduced by the narrow and limited approach to the subject.

Yes, indeed, corporate social responsibility, or CSR, and sustainable development as concepts go far beyond the traditional boundaries of philanthropy, offering businesses solid benefits and advantages. However, I cannot agree with Thompson's suggestion that these advantages are primary reflected by the impact on brand image and public relations for a company. CSR brings much more to the table than just PR benefits: It serves as an outstanding tool for cost management, employee recruitment and retention, product development and innovation, risk management, and much, much more. Limiting its benefits to the advances of the company's image is misleading, as it robs Russian companies of opportunities to develop sustainable competitive advantage.

And while Russian businesses might be in the early stages of utilizing the strategic benefits of CSR and sustainability practices, they definitely deserve more credit than Mark was ready to give. Russian companies of all sizes have been using CSR/sustainability frameworks to create mutual benefit for business and society that goes beyond simple PR dividends. SUAL Holding, the aluminum giant, for example, runs a multi-partnership socio-economic development program that brings direct benefits to the regions where it operates, while significantly reducing the company's infrastructure expenses. The financial services company Troika Dialog developed a comprehensive index of investment risks related to transparency and financial discipline, which allows the company to minimize its own financial risks while enhancing overall accountability and transparency standards in the country. ALVI, a small timber company in Karelia, managed to achieve productivity per employee 50 to 100 percent higher than other companies in the region with its health and wellness programs for employees.

In all of these examples, social responsibility efforts delivered significant benefits to the businesses far beyond the limited advances of brand image and public relations.

Just a few weeks ago, I had the chance to listen to Lee Scott, CEO of Wal-Mart, the second largest corporation in the world, talking about his own former shallowness towards the concepts of sustainability. "What's been amazing to me is that what I had thought was going to be a defensive strategy is turning out to be entirely the opposite. This is an offensive strategy. It is a strategy about merchandizubg; a strategy about cost management, a strategy about attracting and retaining the best, most creative minds," Scott said. "There is an old saying: Even a blind pig stumbles upon an acorn once in a while, and I feel a little bit that way. This is a so much bigger than I could have ever imagined."

It is my greatest hope that articles in The Moscow Times would allow Russian companies to shed their blindness and find all the "golden acorns" that sustainability has to offer.

Nadya Zhexembayeva
Director, World Inquiry Center for Business
Case Western Reserve University
Cleveland, Ohio