Wouldn't it be awful to live in Putin's Russia?, we're asked. A place where corruption runs rampant, who you know is more important than what you do, and where opposition to the government ought to carry a health warning.
Just imagine how awful it would be.
An agent of the Federal Security Service (the new name for the old KGB, the Committee for State Security), believed to have been on secondment from the Foreign Intelligence Service, is found dead in his locked flat in the heart of Moscow.
The Militsiya, Russia's police force, which is directly answerable to the Interior Minister, and, through Zhitnaya Ul., to President Putin, conducts a cursory investigation, overseen by a judge who is appointed by the regime, and can be dismissed by the regime.
Despite the fact the flat is locked from the inside, and the KGB agent's corpse is padlocked inside a bag, which is found in the bath, neither the Militsiya nor the judge find anything suspicious about the case, and put it down to a laughably-supple suicide.
Years earlier, a lawyer, and senior opposition leader of one of the satellite republics is found dead in his car in the countryside hundreds of kilometers outside Moscow. He had been shot twice in the head. The authorities declare it a suicide. He had become a prominent critic of Soviet military policy, and was a widely-known figure calling for his republic to secede from the Soviet Union. The Interior Minister of the day, who oversaw the police investigation, and current member of the Federation Council, who served in Gorbachev's government, is publicly accused of rape and of covering up a child abuse ring. He dies suddenly a matter of months later, from a cancer which had never previously before been announced. It is the latest in a series of scandals at the top of Russian society: several well-known former members of the Supreme Soviet are unmasked as child abusers shortly after their deaths. There is speculation of a child abuse ring at the top of Russian society, with members of Putin's own family implicated in it, with one of his sons accused in court of statutory rape of a child.
In an eerily-similar case, a lawyer who was in the public eye for defending Chechen separatists was the subject of death threats not only from Russian nationalist extremists, but also had been threatened by the Militsiya themselves. The KGB were known to be following the lawyer. Amnesty International strongly criticised the Russian government for their harassment of her. When she was assassinated by a Russian fascist group, there were rumours of collusion between the Russian government and the fascists.The government, however, quickly cleared themselves of any responsibility for the murder.
A prominent critic of the regime resigns from Putin's government in disgust at its foreign policies. Two years later, while walking in a remote region of the restive Chechnyan republic, he is taken ill on a lonely mountainside and dies. The mountain he dies on belongs to Russia's richest man, who also, by coincidence, happens to be a senior Russian military figure, in charge of the army reserve. Putin, relieved of a major internal critic, refuses to attend the funeral.
A former wife of a senior figure in the regime and the mother of a rising star goes on holiday to a Warsaw Pact capital city where she is killed in a mysterious car crash. There is evidence of outside involvement (traces of impact with another vehicle, which was never found, were discovered on the crashed car), and witness evidence showing her chauffeur was sober at the time of the crash. There were no fewer than fourteen CCTV cameras along the route taken by the car, but coincidentally, not one of them managed to capture any evidence. And the only camera pointed at the crash scene wasn't being monitored as all of the police officers in the control room had been sent home at 11pm. The official verdict was that the chauffeur, who was believed to have had contacts with elements in the KGB, was drunk and lost control of the vehicle.
A man who spent eleven consecutive New Years with Boris Yeltsin and who was given the Hero of Labour and Order of St Catherine by presidents over a span of decades; who spends time with the most important people in Russian government and society and is a personal friend of the second in line to the presidency, dies of old age. Within days, he is unmasked as one of the most prolific sexual predators in the history of Russia. Operating at the top of society, a friend of presidents, members of the Duma, and a top broadcaster with State TV, it emerges that he was offending in plain sight with his exploits common knowledge amongst the elite. Because of his connections to the top of Russian society, nobody holds him to account or stops the abuse.
Yeah, it would be awful to live in a society like that. Thank goodness we live in good old transparent Britain, governed by the warm embrace of Westminster and the Windsors.