Fair Maiden Protected or Abused?

The just-murdered Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov was 55 when they shot him last Friday night, and as he made that fateful walk across Moscow’s Great Moskvoretsky Bridge he was in the company of his 23-year-old Ukrainian girlfriend (and fashion model), Anna Durytska. Although that great disparity in age will surely prompt tsk-tsk’s even in this day and age, surely any man who shows himself ready to face down the criminal Russian political establishment over many years must surely be vouchsafed certain sweet side-benefits. Even the sainted Václav Havel was said to be something of a womanizer – when he didn’t find himself in jail, of course – and in the eyes of many he lined up his second wife, a prominent Czech actress, rather too quickly after the death from cancer of his first wife, Olga. These must be classic alpha males we are dealing with here, after all.

But back to Ms. Durytska, who had to endure the horrible experience of seeing her lover, with whom she was holding hands during a romantic midnight stroll on a bridge, cruelly shot down and killed right before her. According to all accounts, the first thing she did was call the police, and then call her mother back in the Ukraine. The police naturally had to take her in for questioning, but, according to the on-line account at BBC News, she was then allowed to return to the Ukraine, and her lawyer stated that the police had been “acting correctly.” (That BBC site also – inevitably? – is topped by a glamor head-shot of Ms. Durytska, just in case anyone wanted to doubt her modeling credentials.)

Other reports, however, paint a picture that was much more unpleasant for Nemtsov’s girlfriend.

She was retenue – “retained,” of course – in Russia, which hints of a certain freedom of movement denied. And in the actual linked news report, taken from Le Point, that is the case. “The investigators interrogated me and wouldn’t tell me when I would be free nor why they were detaining me [there],” Ms. Dyritska is quoted as complaining. “I have the right to leave Russia, I am not a suspect. I am a witness and I gave them all the information that I had, I did everything I could do to help the investigators.”

Inna Durytska, Anna’s mother, already figures in this tale through that midnight telephone call (she was also naturally Anna’s first destination when first arriving back in the Ukraine – Anna is 23, remember), and she became plenty worried. “I was afraid they would accuse her of murder, simply because they need some Ukrainian trail of clues.”

But again, I’m just a little concerned by this discrepancy between the BBC’s account and others’. And it is not just L’Actualité24/Le Figaro, either: this other piece in Germany’s FAZ – surely a source you can trust most of the time – also reports of Ms. Durytska having her departure from Russia “obstructed” (gehindert; it also has yet another shot of her fair countenance, for those who cannot get enough). And surely we all can intuit that a visit to the Russian police – under any circumstances, much less when one is associated with someone so much out of favor with the authorities – is likely to be quite unpleasant.

So what’s going on with the BBC? Or could it be (as ungentlemanly as it may seem) that the Moscow police authorities really gave her no harsher treatment – and detained her no longer – than any witness ordinarily has the right to expect, so that there is an element of personal hysteria here which the BBC was prudent – even gentlemanly – to ignore?

BTW I just heard on VRT, Flemish Radio, that Boris Nemtsov was buried today at the same cemetery that holds the grave of investigative journalist Anna Politovskaya, another figure whose mysterious street-murder (in 2006; well OK, in her apartment building’s elevator) was mighty convenient for Vladimir Putin.

UPDATE: Whatever the true nature of her treatment in Moscow, Die Welt reports that Anna Duritskaya has had to seek police protection in the Ukraine after receiving multiple threats to her life.

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