Politkovskaya's book, Putin's Russia: Life in a Failing Democracy, criticized Putin's federal presidency, including his pursuit of the Second Chechen War. She accused Putin and the Russian secret service FSB of stifling civil liberties in order to establish a Soviet-style dictatorship, while admitting that "it is we who are responsible for Putin's policies":
- "Society has shown limitless apathy.... As the Chekists have become entrenched in power, we have let them see our fear, and thereby have only intensified their urge to treat us like cattle. The KGB respects only the strong. The weak it devours. We of all people ought to know that."
She also wrote:
- "We are hurtling back into a Soviet abyss, into an information vacuum that spells death from our own ignorance. All we have left is the internet, where information is still freely available. For the rest, if you want to go on working as a journalist, it's total servility to Putin. Otherwise, it can be death, the bullet, poison, or trial—whatever our special services, Putin's guard dogs, see fit."
"People often tell me that I am a pessimist, that I don't believe in the strength of the Russian people, that I am obsessive in my opposition to Putin and see nothing beyond that," she opens an essay titled Am I Afraid?, finishing it—and the book—with the words: "If anybody thinks they can take comfort from the 'optimistic' forecast, let them do so. It is certainly the easier way, but it is the death sentence for our grandchildren."