It is not “abduction by aliens” that should worry people where Kirsan Ilyumzhinov is concerned

19 May 2014

By John Crowfoot

Even by the brutal and desensitized standards of Russia in the late 1990s, the murder of 52-year-old journalist Larisa Yudina on 7 June 1998 appalled the nation. Lured to a meeting with a mysterious source, she was abducted, beaten to death and dumped outside Elista, the capital of Kalmykia.

She was killed, there can be no doubt, because she had fought all attempts to silence her newspaper Soviet Kalmykia Today, the one surviving opposition voice in this south Russia region: the Kalmyk republic, then headed by Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, is bordered by the Volgograd, Rostov and the Stavropol Regions of the Russian Federation.

Yudina’s fellow journalists elected her chief editor of the daily paper in the early 1990s. For the next decade she doggedly resisted every form of pressure and intimidation, and ignored all kinds of threats against her, her staff and her newspaper. Towards the end, when no printers in Kalmykia would agree to do the job, she would drive to the neighbouring Volgograd Region to have the newspaper printed, and then, packing her small saloon car to the roof with several thousand copies, drove back to Elista to distribute the latest issue.

When Yudina’s mutilated body was found President Yeltsin echoed public outrage and demands that her murderers be identified and punished. More to the point, the media community pushed successfully for the investigation of her killing to be transferred out of the Kalmyk Republic and a sympathetic Prosecutor General Yury Skuratov entrusted the work to a team from the Rostov Region. On 29 November 1999 Yudina’s murderers were found guilty.

It was one of the first successful prosecutions for killing a journalist in Russia. The identity of those who ordered and paid these hired assassins to kill Yudina has never been proven.

If decent but still undecided people in the chess world’s national federations (see Guardian reports on Friday and Saturday (17 May 2014 “world chess sets clock on bruising battle to be king”, ) could hear the story of “Kalmykia’s Politkovskaya” they might be encouraged to distance themselves and their honourable pastime from Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, the Kalmyk Republic’s former president. For in Russia it is not his “abduction by aliens” that comes to mind among journalists when Ilyumzhinov’s name is mentioned. Their thoughts turn to the much darker and indubitable reality of the indomitable Larisa Yudina and her despicable murder almost 16 years ago.

John Crowfoot

For more on Yudina’s life and death, see IFJ, RUJ, GDF & CJES database

In English

In Russian

and CPJ

The views expressed in blogs published on Rights in Russia are those of the authors and are not necessarily those of Rights in Russia.