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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Putin Blamed in Politkovskaya's Diaries

LONDON -- Slain journalist Anna Politkovskaya's diaries, published in English this week, paint a damning picture of a Russia where democracy is stifled, fascism is on the rise and ethnic minorities are brutally repressed.

For her, one man is to blame -- President Vladimir Putin.

Politkovskaya's hard-hitting account of Russian news and politics over two years, including the State Duma elections in 2003 and the Beslan school siege in 2004, was completed shortly before she was murdered in Moscow in October. She was 48.

The 300-page collection of reportage and reflection, unpublished in Russia, is a reminder of why Politkovskaya was such a thorn in the Kremlin's side.

In the first of three sections, Politkovskaya describes the creation and success of the "phantom" United Russia party in the 2003 elections, which eased Putin's passage to re-election in 2004.

"Were we seeing a crisis of Russian parliamentary democracy in the Putin era?" she said. "No, we were witnessing its death."

Politkovskaya, her appeals unheeded in her lifetime by the majority that sees Putin as a bulwark of stability, accuses those in power of undermining the opposition through intimidation.

She also voices her frustration at the opposition itself -- saying it concentrated on courting the wealthy while ignoring those below the poverty line -- and at Russia as a whole.

"The Russian people gave their consent. The electorate took it lying down and agreed to live ... without democracy," she wrote on Dec. 8, 2003. "They agreed to be treated like idiots."

Putin declines the totalitarian label but says democracy must be adapted to Russian conditions and culture.

Among the political reflections, Politkovskaya highlights the gap between Russia's rich and poor, allegations of arbitrary kidnappings and killings in southern Russia and of the torture and murder of a soldier by fellow recruits.

Several times in her memoirs she argues that by resorting to what she calls brutality and lawlessness in Chechnya, the authorities under Putin were driving young people to take up arms against them.

"In the Chechen town of Urus-Martan, three boys have gone off to fight for the resistance," she said in 2005. "They left notes for their relatives explaining that they could ... see no other way to get back at the failure to punish evildoers."

Politkovskaya's sister Yelena Kudimova said investigators had narrowed the search for her killers to a few possibilities, but she could not predict whether or when charges would be brought.

"She had quite a lot of enemies. There could potentially be a number of people who might have killed her," she said in an interview.

Kudimova added that Politkovskaya would speak again from beyond the grave with a new book to be published this year.

Politkovskaya started the book about Chechnya in 2006, and Kudimova said it contained "explosive" material. Kudimova will complete it with a chapter about her sister.

"She was very feminine, not just a warrior," Kudimova said.