| Yuri Shtshekotshichin,
anti-mafia and anti-corruption campaigner, was born on June 9, l950. He
died in Moscow on July 3, 2003, aged 53.
Yuri Shtshekotshichin was Russia's unrivalled scourge of corruption
new mafia as well as in the highest government circles around President
Yeltsin and, later, President Putin.
Until the collapse of communism, when he was just past 40, he was a
line journalist. The moment Boris Yeltsin ousted Mikhail Gorbachev in
Kremlin, Shtshekotshichin acquired the freedom to ask any question dictated
by his restless curiosity.
Shtshekotshichin began to drink of that freedom in ever bigger and more
daring gulps. That freedom was reinforced by his membership of the Duma,
the new multiparty parliament, to which he had first been elected in l990.
It gave him freedom from prosecution and arbitrary imprisonment by
authorities who found his questions increasingly embarrassing.
He became deputy editor of Novaya Gazeta, a paper of low circulation
high prestige, and set to work, first on the new Russian mafia, its massive
money laundering and contract killings.
Next he turned his crusading curiosity on the new government machine
its growing corruption. That earned him a television series. It swiftly
attracted the attention of Vladimir Putin, and so came to an abrupt end
after only a few months.
Undeterred, Shtshekotshichin turned his questions on to the Chechnya
That endeared him even less to Putin. Given his parliamentary immunity,
government fought back with a weapon that it rarely used -seeming
"Only silence followed 90 per cent of my publications," Shtshekotshichin
complained. "Those I accused, simply did not react."
For his last case he travelled to the provincial town of Ryazan, well
from Moscow, to investigate accusations that the local militia was making
up criminal cases against individuals who had crossed the local rulers.
set out a fit man but came back seriously sick.
On June 23 he was admitted to the Central hospital in Moscow. Its
specialists could not diagnose his sickness and classified it vaguely
"extreme allergic syndrome". Ten days later he was dead, leaving
shining reputation for courage against corruption.