They can't 'silence' everyone

Crusading chief of liberal radio station, Echo of Moscow, Alexei Venedictov

MOSCOW - Journalism is a dangerous business in Russia where those who challenge the authorities or investigate corruption are risking savage beatings, or even murder.

So right after arriving in Moscow today, I rushed to keep an appointment with Alexei Venedictov, editor-in-chief of Echo of Moscow, a fiercely independent radio station, operating out of cramped rooms on the 14th floor of an ugly concrete office building in central Moscow. The station reaches three million listeners and has kept up a drum beat of criticism against election-fixing and corruption.

While the Kremlin has slightly relaxed its tight control of the media in the run-up to Sunday's presidential election, Venedictov expects a crackdown once Vladimir Putin is confirmed for a third term, in a rigged electoral system.

Sitting in front of a poster from the movie Psycho, the shaggy Venedictov says Putin's minions have already laid the groundwork to shut down new media websites and force the handful of small, independent newspapers to sell out to Kremlin-friendly owners. His station has been hacked and its supervisory board just been taken over by Kremlin-friendly businessmen.

"I don't believe they can silence everyone," says Venedictov. In my Sunday column, I'll be writing more about him and other brave journalists, along with opposition leaders who have shocked the Kremlin by turning out huge crowds.