Below is an excerpt from a CNN Press Release on the premiere of the latest Special Investigations Unit program, Czar Putin:
With modern Russia flush with oil money wealth, President Vladimir Putin enjoys a 70 percent approval rating among the Russian people according to some polls. But Putin’s power and popularity may come at a price. Some observers say there is a dark side to Russia’s capitalistic miracle. Days ago, several political rivals of Putin were imprisoned, and many Russian journalists charge that the government intentionally intimidates the independent press.
As Russia’s parliamentary elections approach this weekend, chief international correspondent Christiane Amanpour reports for CNN: Special Investigations Unit – Czar Putin, on Friday, Nov. 30, at 10 p.m., with replays on Saturday, Dec. 1, and Sunday, Dec. 2, at 1 a.m. and 10 p.m. All times Eastern.
Amanpour meets world chess champion Garry Kasparov, who is fighting an uphill battle to challenge Putin. Arrested last weekend under charges of “administrative offenses,” Kasparov is a would-be Russian presidential candidate who says that democracy in Russia is a farce.
Disturbingly, press freedoms have been curtailed under Putin’s regime. Yevgeny Kisilev, formerly Russia’s leading national news anchor, describes for Amanpour how Putin thwarted an independent television network NTV from reporting freely in Russia. NTV management was accused of financial improprieties; special police stormed its headquarters; and Gazprom, a Russian energy giant, gained control of the company, ending its independence and forcing out Kisilev and his news team.
More than 200 journalists have been killed since the fall of communism in 1991, according to Alexei Simonov of the Glasnost Defense Foundation. While Russian police solve 80 percent of all murders, the number drops to only 6 percent when the victim is a journalist. This includes the murder of famed Putin critic Anna Politkovskaya, Russia’s most famous investigative reporter. Simonov believes that the Kremlin is responsible for creating a climate of fear for journalists.
Russia appears to be flexing its military capabilities as well. Amanpour challenges Konstantin Kosachev, one of Putin’s party leaders, about aggressive Russian bomber exercises near British and American air space during a time of peace.
“The point is, that they need to have training in a real situation,” Kosachev says.
In Czar Putin, several Russians of all ages give Putin credit for their country’s rising global economic status and geopolitical influence. And as Putin has moved to consolidate his powers, he has also developed a savvy sense of photo opportunities that fuel his “rock star” admiration among some Russians.
Yulia Latynina, an anchor for Moscow Echo Radio and outspoken Putin critic, says about Russia’s rollbacks of democratic freedoms: “For Putin, it’s about power. For people that surround Putin, it’s about money.”
It's pop quiz time! I was browsing through my collection of Mystery Journalist pictures and decided it was time to find out who has been paying attention. All eyes are on you tonight as you'll find pictures of previous Mystery Journalists below. Can you see through the clues to the names of these Mystery Journalists?
I'll post the answers on Sunday night. Good luck!