Russian troops killed Chechen warlord Arbi Barayev last weekend in the first successful action against a high-profile separatist field commander in more than 18 months. Barayev was allegedly behind scores of kidnappings and murders—including the decapitation of four Western telecom engineers in 1998. Russian paper Rossiyskaya Gazeta reacted with a one-word headline: “Retribution.” It dismissed Barayev as “a simple bandit who thought only of money and personal gain. The idea of holy war was always just a screen for him.” (Russian translation courtesy of BBC Monitoring.) The Times of London described Barayev as “perhaps the worst example of a generation of young men who grew up into a world of crime in Chechnya.” The Moscow Times warned that removing one commander would change little, because the Chechen resistance consists of small, independent groups. An academic told the paper, “Killing one leader just makes the movement more dispersed and even harder to fight against.” A Moscow Times editorial expressed regret that Barayev took his secrets to the grave:
We won’t hear what he might have said about who profited from the kidnapping industry in the region over the last decade. We won’t hear his response to claims that rebel fighters have been able to purchase weapons and supplies from Russian officers and soldiers. … No matter how the Chechen campaign evolves, the government has much to answer for regarding its actions over the last decade. We can’t help but fear that the new enthusiasm for “mopping up” the rebel leaders is really intended to cover up the past rather than to bring peace to Chechnya.
Game, set, and Match: Roger Thérond, who turned Paris-Match into the quintessential French magazine, died Saturday at the age of 76. Joining the publication in 1949, Thérond published long photo-essays by Henri Cartier-Bresson and coined his famous description of effective photojournalism: “le poids des mots, le choc des photos“—”the weight of words, the shock of photographs.” Fired in 1968, he returned to the editor’s chair in 1976, finding a publication focused on royalty and celebrities rather than war and reportage. British obituaries focused on the lurid later years: The Guardian noted that Match revealed the existence of French President François Mitterrand’s illegitimate daughter when it published photographs of Mazarine Pingeot in 1995; the Times reported that on several occasions British wholesalers refused to distribute the magazine because it contained paparazzi shots of members of the royal family. In France, the emphasis was on Thérond’s reputation as a pioneer of the art of photojournalism and as a collector of 19th-century photographs, though Le Monde acknowledged that in later years the shock of Paris-Match’s photos overwhelmed the weight of its words, and Libération described him as a combination of predator and vagabond.
Koizumi-san ichiban! Forget baseball players and pop stars, Japanese schoolgirls, old folks, and moms with tots in strollers are flooding to the Liberal Democratic Party souvenir shop in downtown Tokyo for the hottest pop-culture accoutrement of the day: glossy posters of Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi. According to Britain’s Independent, 600,000 have been snapped up in the last month, while Koizumi T-shirts are sold out, and plates, fans, and telephone cards won’t be in stock until next week. A young woman visiting the store in search of Koizumi gear described the prime minister as “cool” and “sweet” but was unable to identify any of his policies. Confusingly, Le Monde named Koizumi’s weekly e-mail magazine its Web site of the day Wednesday. The e-zine, launched two weeks ago, already has almost 1.8 million subscribers (2 million according to the Guardian; “more than a million” per the Independent), leading the Guardian to describe it as having “some claim to be the fastest expanding magazine in history.” Le Monde says the e-zine’s title, Lion Heart, is “undoubtedly a reference to the title of a song by Smap, the most popular boy band of the moment,” while the Guardian explains it as a reference to the PM’s “tousled mane.” The e-zine excerpts selected by Le Monde echo the breathless tone of boy-band fan sites: “I love sport. I play baseball, I ski, and I love to swim. … I also love to watch sports.” Koizumi’s approval ratings are around 85 percent, much higher than the support for the party as a whole, and the Japan Times said the LDP’s success in Sunday’s Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly elections was the result of its “riding on the dynamics” of the prime minister’s popularity.