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Journalists Kept From Working In Russia, Without Love

(AP Photo/Dmitry Astakhov)
Things Russian President Vladimir Putin likes: The KGB, judo, kitten-like 5-year-old boys.

Things Russian President Vladimir Putin dislikes: Vladimir Gusinsky, Chechen separatists, journalists who talk to them.

The latest evidence of that last one is the case of Thomas de Waal, a well-known British journalist who covers Chechnya. He was refused a visa for reasons of "state security." Here's Reuters with some background:

Russian officials have been very sensitive about Western criticism of the war in Chechnya, where they have struggled to crush separatism for more than a decade, and local journalists have been prosecuted for sympathising with the rebels.

President Vladimir Putin in 2002 said a foreign journalist critical of Russia's policy in the region become a Muslim and be circumcised "in such a way that nothing grows back."

Ouch. Press advocates say that the Kremlin uses intimidation to get journalists to report only its position on the Chechnya conflict. ABC News was reportedly banned from Russia due to an interview it ran with Chechen rebel leader Shamil Basayev.

Last month, Beth Knobel wrote a dispatch for us on what it's like to be a foreign correspondent in Russia. Here is one of the questions Putin was asked by a local journalist at a press conference this year:

"Mr President, to be honest, when I came here I also wanted to ask serious and intelligent questions, but now that our discussion is into its third hour, I realize that I'm just going to have to pull myself together and on behalf of all the blond women in this room ask what is perhaps a stupid and silly question: what do you do to always stay looking so good? Do you use anything particular to restore your youth and good looks?"
Pay no attention to the conflict behind the curtain!