In 2002, a tragic accident occurred over the skies of Europe, as a Russian passenger liner and a DHL cargo plane collided, causing the deaths of some 70 people, including the family of a certain Vitaly Kaloyev, a Russian architect working in Barcelona at the time.
Two years later Kaloyev killed Peter Nielsen, the air traffic controller that he believed was responsible for the death of his daughter. He was duly convicted and spent some time in prison. He was eventually released in late 2007 after winning an appeal on the grounds that his mental state at the time of the killing was not taken properly into account. He returned to Russia where many greeted him as a hero.
This is where things turn bizarre. Not long after Kaloyev’s return, Russia went to war with Georgia. One outcome of this war was the declaration of independence by the state of South Ossetia. Nationalists feelings were high on both sides of the intra-Ossetian border. And Vitaly Kaloyev was named deputy minister of housing in North Ossetia.
I can understand Kaloyev’s feelings. I can even understand why he killed Nielsen, even though Nielsen was himself a victim of incompetent management and bad organization. What I don’t understand is how a convicted killer can be named to such a high-profile public position. I think it speaks volumes about the politics of the region.