In memory of Anna Politkovskaya_Russian Journalist

Anna Stepanovna Politkovskaya (Russian: Анна Степановна Политковская) (30 August19587 October2006) was a Russianjournalistand human rightsactivist well known for her opposition to the Chechen conflictand Russian president Putin. [1][2]

Politkovskaya made her name reporting from lawless Chechnya, where many journalists and humanitarian workers have been kidnapped or killed. She was arrested and subjected to mock executionby Russian military forces there, and she was poisoned on the way to Beslan, but survived and continued her reporting. She authored several books about Chechen wars and Putin's Russiaand received numerous prestigious international awards for her work.

She was shot dead in the elevator of her apartment building on October 7, 2006, the birthday of Vladimir Putin, who was publicly accused by Alexander Litvinenkoof ordering her murder. Litvinenko subsequently died from poisoning by radioactive polonium.

Anna Politkovskaya
Анна Степановна Политковская

Born30 August1958(1958-08-30)
New York City, New York, U.S.
Died7 October2006(aged 48)
Moscow, Russia

Early life

Politkovskaya was born Anna Mazepa in New York Cityin 1958 to Soviet Ukrainianparents, both of whom served as diplomatsto the United Nations. She grew up in Moscow and graduated from the Moscow State UniversityDepartment of Journalism in 1980. She defended a thesis about the poetry of Marina Tsvetaeva. Politkovskaya was a citizen of both the United States of America and the Russian Federation.[3]

Journalistic work

Anna Politkovskaya
Anna Politkovskaya

Politkovskaya worked for Izvestia from 1982 to 1993, and then as a reporter, editor of emergencies/accidents section, and assistant chief editor of Obshchaya Gazeta led by Yegor Yakovlev(1994–1999). From June 1999 to 2006, she wrote columns for the biweekly Novaya Gazeta. She published several award-winning books about Chechnya, life in Russia,[4] and President Putin's regime,[5] most recently the book Putin's Russia.

Reports from Chechnya

Outside Russia, Politkovskaya received wide acclaim for her work in Chechnya,[6] where she frequently visited hospitals and refugee camps to interview the victims.[7]. She said about herself that she was not an investigating magistratebut somebody who describes the life of the citizens for those who cannot see it for themselves, because what is shown on television and written about in the overwhelming majority of newspapers is emasculated and doused with ideology.

Her numerous articles critical of the war in Chechnya described abuses committed by Russian military forces, by Chechen rebels, and by the Russian-backed Chechen administration led by Akhmad Kadyrovand his son Ramzan Kadyrov. Politkovskaya chronicled human rights abuses and policy failures in Chechnya and elsewhere in Russia's North Caucasusin several books on the subject, including A Dirty War: A Russian Reporter in Chechnya and A Small Corner of Hell: Dispatches from Chechnya, which painted a picture of brutal war in which thousands of innocent citizens have been tortured, abducted or killed at the hands of Chechen or federal authorities.[8] One of her most recent investigations was about alleged mass poisoning of hundreds of Chechen school children by an unknown chemical substance of strong and prolonged action, which made them completely incapable for many months.[9]

Criticism of Vladimir Putin and FSB

She wrote a book, Putin's Russia: Life in a Failing Democracy, critical of Putin's federal presidency, including his pursuit of the Second Chechen War. In this book she also accused the Russian secret service FSBof stifling all civil liberties in order to establish a Soviet-style dictatorship, but admitted that "it is we who are responsible for Putin's policies": "Society has shown limitless apathy... As the Chekistshave become entrenched in power, we have let them see our fear, and thereby have only intensified their urge to treat us like cattle. The KGBrespects only the strong. The weak it devours. We of all people ought to know that." She also wrote that

"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." [10]

"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 Putinand 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."[11][12][13][14][15][16]

A Russian Diary

In May 2007, Random Housepublished A Russian Diary: A Journalist's Final Account of Life, Corruption, and Death in Putin's Russia, made up of extracts from her notebook and other writing, in which she describes the poisoning on the plane to Rostov-on-Don on the way to Beslanand the worsening political situation in Russia (referred to above). Because the gunman who shot her twice in the head and a third time in the shoulder at point blank range in the elevator to her apartment[17] - on President Vladimir Putin's birthday - carried out the hit 'while translation was being completed, final editing had to go ahead without her help,' translator Arch Tait writes in a note. "Who killed Anna and who lay beyond her killer remains unknown," UK Channel 4's main news anchor Jon Snowwrites in the foreword to the book's UK edition. "Her murder robbed too many of us of absolutely vital sources of information and contact. Yet it may, ultimately, be seen to have at least helped prepare the way for the unmasking of the dark forces at the heart of Russia's current being. I must confess that I finished reading A Russian Diary feeling that it should be taken up and dropped from the air in vast quantities throughout the length and breadth of Mother Russia, for all her people to read."

Attempted hostage negotiations

She had, on several occasions, been involved in negotiating the release of hostages, including the Moscow theater hostage crisisof 2002 and the Beslan school hostage crisisof 2004.[18]

Her relationships with Russian state authorities

In Moscow she was not invited to press conferences or gatherings that Kremlinofficials might attend, in case the organizers were suspected of harboring sympathies toward her. Despite this, many top officials allegedly talked to her when she was writing articles or conducting investigations -- according to her own article, they did talk to her, "but only when they weren't likely to be observed: outside in crowds, or in houses that they approached by different routes, like spies".[19] She also claimed that the Kremlintried to block her access to information and discredit her:[20]

"I will not go into the other joys of the path I have chosen, the poisoning, the arrests, the threats in letters and over the Internet, the telephoned death threats, the weekly summons to the prosecutor general's office to sign statements about practically every article I write (the first question being, "How and where did you obtain this information?"). Of course I don't like the constant derisive articles about me that appear in other newspapers and on Internet sites presenting me as the madwoman of Moscow. I find it disgusting to live this way. I would like a bit more understanding."[21]

Threats to her life

While attending a conference on the freedom of press organized by Reporters Without Bordersin Vienna in December 2005 Politkovskaya said: "People sometimes pay with their lives for saying aloud what they think. In fact, one can even get killed for giving me information. I am not the only one in danger. I have examples that prove it."[22] She often received death threats as a result of her work;[23] including being threatened with rape and experiencing a mock executionafter being arrested by the military in Chechnya.[24]

Detention in Chechnya

During a reporting trip in 2001, Politkovskaya was detained by military officials in the Chechen village of Khottuni.[25] Politkovskaya followed the complaints from 90 Chechen families about "punitive raids" by federal forces. She interviewed a Chechen grandmother Rosita from a village of Tovzeni who endured a 12 day torture of beatings, electric shockand confinement in a pit. The men who arrested Rosita presented themselves as FSBemployees. The torturers requested a ransomfrom Rosita's relatives who negotiated a smaller amount that they were able to pay. Another interviewee described killings and rapes of Chechen men in a "concentration camp with a commercial streak" near the village of Khottuni.

On her leaving the camp, Politkovskaya herself was detained, interrogated, beaten and humiliated by Russian troops [26]. She was subjected to a mock executionusing a multiple-launch rocket systemBM-21 Grad, then poisoned with a cup of tea that made her vomit. Her tape records were confiscated. She described her execution:

A lieutenant colonel "with a swarthy face and dull dark bulging eyes" "said in a businesslike tone: "Let's go. I'm going to shoot you". He led me out of the tent into complete darkness. The nights here are impenetrable. After we walked for a while, he said, "Ready or not, here I come". Something burst with pulsating fire around me, screeching, roaring, and growling. The lieutenant colonel was very happy when I crouched in fright. It turned out that he had led me right under the "Grad" rocket launcherat the moment it was fired." [27]

In 2004 Colonel-General Alexander Baranov, the commander of the Russian Kavkaz deployment mentioned by Politkovskaya's camp guide as the one who ordered captured militants to be kept in the pits, was found guilty by the European Court of Human Rights,[28] with regard to unlawful detention, violating the right to life, and the forced disappearanceof a Chechen militant suspect Khadzhi-Murat Yandiyevhe ordered to be executed.


While traveling to Beslanto help in negotiations with the hostage-takers, Politkovskaya fell violently ill and lost consciousness after drinking tea. She had been reportedly poisoned,[29] with some accusing the former Soviet secret police poison facility[30].

Threats from an OMON officer

In 2001, Politkovskaya fled to Vienna, following e-mail threats claiming that the OMONpolice officer whom she had accused of committing atrocities against civilians was looking to take revenge. The officer, Sergei Lapin, was arrested and charged in 2002, but the case against him was closed the following year.[31][32] In 2005, Lapin was convicted and jailed for torturing and "disappearing" a Chechen civilian detainee, the case exposed by Anna Politkovskaya in the article "Disappearing People".[33]

Conflict with Ramzan Kadyrov

In 2004Politkovskaya had a conversation with Chechnya's Prime Minister Ramzan Kadyrovin Chechnya. One of his assistants said to her: "One had to shoot you in Moscow, right on the street, as used to kill people in your Moscow". Ramzan repeated:"You are the enemy. Shoot..." [34]. Novaya Gazeta editor Dmitry Muratov said that on the day of her murder, Politkovskaya had planned to file a lengthy story on torture practices believed to be used by Chechen security detachments known as Kadyrovites which are loyal to Kadyrov whom she described as "Chechen Stalinof our days" in the last interview of her life. [35]


Politkovskaya was found shot dead on Saturday, 7 October2006in the elevatorof her apartment block in central Moscow. The funeral was held on Tuesday, 10 October, at 2:30 p.m., at the Troyekurovsky Cemetery. Before Politkovskaya was laid to rest, more than 1,000 people filed past her coffin to pay their last respects. Dozens of Politkovskaya's colleagues, public figures and admirers of her work gathered at a cemetery on the outskirts of Moscow for the funeral. No high-ranking Russian officials could be seen at the ceremony.[36] There was widespread international reaction, and Russian state authorities were blamed by some of her colleagues and friends of inability to prevent her murder or even of involvement in her assassination.

Former FSBofficer Alexander Litvinenkoaccused Russian president Vladimir Putinof sanctioning the assassination of Politkovskaya and claimed that politician Irina Hakamadahad warned Politkovskaya about threats to her life coming from the Russian government [37]. In that regard, Politkovskaya had asked Litvinenko for advice. He had recommended that she escape from Russia immediately. Hakamada denied Litvinenko's allegations that she had been under any specific threats, and said that she had warned Politkovskaya only in general terms more than a year earlier, and that Politkovskaya had blamed her and Mikhail Kasyanovfor becoming the Kremlin's puppets [3].

Former KGB officer Oleg Gordievskybelieved that the murders of Zelimkhan Yandarbiev, Yuri Shchekochikhin, Politkovskaya, Litvinenko and others mean that FSBhas returned to the practice of political assassinations which were conducted in the past by the Thirteenth KGBDepartment.[38][39]

On 10 October, 2,000 demonstrators called Putin a "murderer" during his visit to Dresden, Germany.[40][41][42] Such accusations have been dismissed by Putin. He told reporters in Dresden: "This journalist was indeed a fierce critic of the current authorities in Russia.... her impact on Russian political life was only very slight. She was well known in the media community, in human rights circles and in the West, but her influence on political life within Russia was very minimal.[43], and: "In my opinion murdering such a person certainly does much greater damage from the authorities’ point of view, authorities that she strongly criticized, than her publications ever did. Moreover, we have reliable, consistent information that many people who are hiding from Russian justice have been harbouring the idea that they will use somebody as a victim to create a wave of anti-Russian sentiment in the world."[44][45]


First ten months of investigation

The team of investigators was led by Pyotr Garibyan. During the initial period of investigation, no names of suspects were announced or leaked. According to more recent publications, a list of suspects investigated but rejected included OMONofficer Lapin and Chechen criminals connected with warlord Movladi Baisarov, who was later killed in Moscow [46]

Billionaire State Dumadeputy Alexander Lebedev, who bought 39 percent of Novaya Gazeta in June 2006 (Mikhail Gorbachev bought 10%)[47], has posted a reward of 25 million rubles, (as of October 2007equal to 707000 Euroor US$1 million), for information leading to those responsible for Politkovskaya's death.[48][49]

Official announcement by Russia's Prosecutor-General

On August 28, 2007, Russia's Prosecutor-General Yury Chaika[50] had a meeting with Vladimir Putinand FSBdirector Nikolai Patrushev, during which he made an official announcement that

"Our investigation has led us to conclude that only people living abroad could be interested in killing Politkovskaya," and that "Forces interested in de-stabilising the country, in stoking discrediting the national leadership, provoking external pressure on the country, could be interested in this crime. Anna Politkovskaya knew who ordered her killing. She met him more than once." [51]

Chaika also said that Politkovskaya's killers are probably connected with the murders of deputy Central Bank head Andrei Kozlovand U.S. journalist Paul Khlebnikov[52].

The person noted by Chaika as organizer of the murder was unequivocally identified in the media as Boris Berezovsky[52] The statement by Chaika was supported by Andrei Lugovoi, who had been indicted by British court with regard to the Alexander Litvinenko poisoning. Lugovoy said that Berezovsky had organized the murders of Politkovskaya, Alexander Litvinenko, and the attempted murder of Yelena Tregubova.[53] The timing of the announcement, just three days before Politkovskaya's birthday on August 30, was considered suspicious by some of her colleagues, who think "that Chaika is trying to preserve Putin's image." [52]


Ten people were arrested for Politkovskaya's killing. [54] The most notable suspects were acting FSBLieutenant ColonelPavel Ryaguzovand an officer from the Department for Fighting Organized Crime (UBOP) Sergei Khadjikurbanov. Ryaguzov was later released, then imprisoned again on an independent charge.[55] On October 17 Pavel Ryaguzov was accused of passing information to the murderers of Anna Politkovskaya about her place of residence. [56] Khadjikurbanov had previously been sentenced to four years in prison in 2004. However his four-year term was commuted to two years, and he was released just a month before the murder of Politkovskaya. Khadjikurbanov is currently at large.

On September 21, Shamil Burayev, formerly head of Achkhoy-Martanovsky Districtin Chechnya, was arraigned on charges of aiding the murder of Politkovskaya[57]. According to his lawyer, the accusation was that "upon his request Ryaguzov found the home address of Anna Politkovskaya", whereupon the address was transferred to "unidentified people", as the conviction reads. [57] Shamil Burayev pleaded not guilty. [57] According to an unnamed source, cited by Komsomolskaya Pravdajournalist Shamil Jemakulov, Burayev is considered to be the organiser of Politkovskaya's murder. [58]

Statement by colleagues and son of Politkovskaya

Staff journalists of Novaya Gazetacarried out a separate investigation of Politkovskaya's murder, during which they closely cooperated with the General Prosecutor's Office.

On August 30, 2007, Novaya Gazetajournalists and Anna's son Ilya Politkovsky issued a statement about the ongoing investigation. In it they claimed that not all the people involved had been arrested, the Prosecutor's Office had yet to do lots of routine work to prove the guilt of those arrested, but also that Novaya Gazeta's own investigation shows that "the arrested people were really involved in this crime in this or that degree".

The major issue addressed by the Novaya Gazeta journalists was the leak organized in the media, which has seriously complicated the work of investigators and could have let other people involved get off. According to the journalists, "It seems that someone wanted to make the current list of suspects final and, in addition, to prevent the solving of other crimes that might possibly have been committed by the people arrested."

Details of the investigation were kept secret for almost ten months, being controlled by the chief of the official investigative group and Novaya Gazetajournalists. On August 27, the Prosecutor General and special service officers held press conferences. Although this was not a major breach in the secrecy of the case (besides one of the arrested, FSBLieutenant ColonelPavel Ryaguzov, being named), it triggered a snowball of publications, as well as public appearances by minor officials. Two things had worsened the deal: first, as Sergey Sokolov has mentioned in his September 2 interview, "each office had people who had obtained a bit of information — and they started to sell it to journalists", and second, the seeming involvement of some people in these structures, due to "interpenetration of crime and law enforcement bodies", internal intrigues and fear that if investigators "unraveled this tangle, then the details of many celebrated unsolved cases would be disclosed".

With regard to whoever ordered the murder of Politkovskaya, the Novaya Gazetajournalists have noted: "We do not exclude possible involvement by 'runaway oligarchs' and other characters. There are several versions of who was the client in Politkovskaya’s murder. We believe that the client hasn't left Russia. None of the versions have been proved with evidence up to now and so all speculation must end for the moment." [46] [59]



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