US Indymedia Global Indymedia Publish About us
Printed from Boston IMC :
IVAW Winter Soldier

Winter Soldier
Brad Presente

Other Local News

Spare Change News
Open Media Boston
Somerville Voices
Cradle of Liberty
The Sword and Shield

Local Radio Shows

WMBR 88.1 FM
What's Left
WEDS at 8:00 pm
Local Edition
FRI (alt) at 5:30 pm

WMFO 91.5 FM
Socialist Alternative
SUN 11:00 am

WZBC 90.3 FM
Sounds of Dissent
SAT at 11:00 am
Truth and Justice Radio
SUN at 6:00 am

Create account Log in
Comment on this article | Email this article | Printer-friendly version
News ::
Was Reporter Killed By Putin's Secret Service? (english)
28 Oct 2002
Antonio Russo,found dead near a Caucasian mountain pass,may have discovered too much about atrocities in Chechnya
Antonio Russo,found dead near a Caucasian mountain pass,may have discovered too much about atrocities in Chechnya
Special report: Russia

Amelia Gentleman in Moscow and Rory Carroll in Rome
Sunday November 12, 2000
The Observer

Slumped by the side of the road, a speck amid the fields yawning into the horizon, there was something odd about the contorted, frozen corpse. Antonio Russo had been murdered, and his killers made sure they left not a mark, not a scratch on his body.
On the other side of the Gombori Pass in the republic of Georgia friends were waiting at the village of Mirzaani. Russo was to join in the anniversary celebrations of Nico Pirosmani, a nineteenth-century local artist. They did not know a large, blunt object was being applied to Russo's chest until four ribs cracked and internal bleeding caused him to die of shock.

They did not know his satellite telephone, digital camera, laptop computer and video cassettes were vanishing. An Italian journalist who spent a lifetime chasing secrets was leaving behind some of his own. Who killed him, and why?

Snaking from the roadside, 30 miles north east of the Georgian capital, Tbilisi, is a trail of fact and suspicion that some claim leads to the Kremlin and its onslaught in Chechnya. Russo's friends believe he was assassinated by the Russian secret service after discovering unconventional weapons were being used against children. It would have been a scoop in keeping with a reporter who risked his life countless times in Africa, Bosnia and Kosovo.

Employed by the Rome-based Radio Radicale, an affiliate of Italy's Radical Party, he stayed in Pristina when all other Western journalists pulled out during Nato's bombing. It brought him an award and fame, but Russo, 40, was never flashy. Glory he left to others. A shoestring budget and avoiding the pack was his style.

Last November he moved to Tbilisi. Criss-crossing the mountains into Chechnya, he befriended the rebel leader, Aslan Maskhadov, who was waging war against Russian troops. Both sides were committing atrocities.

Last month Russo phoned his mother, Beatrice, a pharmacist in Tuscany. He had obtained a videotape. Dead children, unimaginable horror, war crimes. The world would see when he returned to Italy on 18 October.

His body was discovered on 16 October. Nearby was a sheet police suspect was used to tie him up. Friends found the door to his city centre apartment unlocked. Belongings were in disarray, documents and car gone. The coroner said the injuries were almost certainly not the result of a road accident. It is not known whether his chest was crushed by a rock, a piece of metal or human pressure.

Mamuka Areshidze, an ex-parliamentary deputy who helped Russo in Georgia, said he did not know which side might have instigated the murder, but was convinced it was not simply a criminal attack. He said: 'I think he was killed because someone wanted to conceal the material he had gathered - this is why the videos disappeared. I understand security forces know how to apply pressure to crush people to death without leaving any trace of violence.'

That is one of several the-ories the murder inquiry is examining, said police. An environmental organisation in Tbilisi, and colleagues in Rome, alleged Russo had evidence of a new Russian weapon that killed people slowly.

There is no proof and sceptics point out higher-profile journalists were filing reports of atrocities. The Radical Party says the timing was significant. For a year President Putin had been lobbying the United Nations to end its status as a non-governmental organisation. He accused the Radicals of paedophilia, terrorism and drug-trafficking. The final UN vote, which rejected the request, was scheduled for 18 October.

Breezing through the studios of Radio Radicale is another theory. Russo was killed because he had a videotaped interview with a Georgian woman claiming to be the President's mother, refuting his claim she was dead. As a murder motive that seems fanciful. The story emerged last spring and was followed up by the international media before being discredited.

Others say the journalist, who on the day of his death was seen with Chechen acquaintances, was killed for money. 'But why would they have left his passport and golden crucifix? And why kill him in such a strange way? It makes no sense,' said a colleague, who asked not to be named.

Human rights groups want the West to query Putin over Russo and two other journalists who wrote about Chechnya: Alexander Yefremov, killed by a remote-controlled explosion in the separatist region in May, and Iskander Khationi, who focused on human rights abuses in Chechnya, found battered to death in September.

Within hours of the news of Russo's death colleagues in Rome were flooded messages. The ponytailed activist had made many friends on his travels.

'We never knew the half of it. Stories of him taking 30 kids to a burger restaurant, saving people's lives,' said a colleague. The liberal, freethinking Radicals promised neither fame nor decent salary, but Russo signed up because 'they're crazy, just like me', he used to say.

The party's attacks on Left and Right alike may explain the minimal coverage in Italy's partisan press. 'They're snobs. It has received more attention abroad,' said the colleague.

Little fanfare accompanied Russo's burial in the family tomb in Francavilla, deep in the Abruzzo countryside. Beatrice Russo, 75, believes her son's killers will never be identified. ' It's all so murky. The only thing that consoles me is it was a death consistent with his life.'
See also:,6903,396329,00.html
Add a quick comment
Your name Your email


Text Format
Anti-spam Enter the following number into the box:
To add more detailed comments, or to upload files, see the full comment form.