Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya’s killers remain free 6 years later

Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya in 2005. SOURCE: Das blaue Sofa / Club Bertelsmann via Flickr.

Six years ago today, Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya was gunned down inside her Moscow apartment building. She was shot in the head, the chest and shoulder in close range and in broad daylight. 

A tenacious investigative journalist and fearless human rights activist, Politkovskaya was best known for her coverage of the savage war in Chechnya and for her criticisms of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s policies.

The brazen assassination of the 48-year-old Novaya Gazeta correspondent sent a chilling message to anyone who dared to expose Kremlin’s brutality and corruption.

More than 2,000 days have passed since Politkovskaya was killed and, still, not a single person has been held accountable for her murder.

“A bungled investigation and legal process have left Politkovskaya’s true killers free, reinforcing the notion that in Russia, killing journalists is a crime met with impunity,” said Nina Ognianova, Committee to Protect Journalists’ Europe and Central Asia program coordinator. “It is time for Russian authorities to solve a case that has become an international symbol in the struggle against impunity and to guarantee a transparent, open trial for a key defendant due to face court.”

In 2009, three suspects – former police officer Sergei Khadzhikurbanov and ethnic Chechen brothers Ibragim and Dzhabrail Makhmudov – were unanimously acquitted in Politkovskaya’s murder. The three men were accused of following Politkovskaya and providing information of her whereabouts to the suspected gunman, Rustam Makhudov, who was apprehended in Chechnya in May 2011.

The three Makhmudov brothers and Khadzhikurbanov have all denied any involvement in Politkovskaya’s death.

The acquittals were overturned by Russia’s Supreme Court, and a new trial was ordered.

In July, retired police Lt. Col. Dmitry Pavlyuchenkov, who served as the head of surveillance at Moscow’s Main Internal Affairs Directorate, was indicted by Russian prosecutors as an accomplice in Politkovskaya’s killing. Prosecutors alleged that Pavlyuchenkov supplied the murder weapon and ordered the surveillance of the journalist.

Following his indictment, Pavlyuchenkov has negotiated a deal to cooperate with investigators and identify the person who ordered the assassination in exchange for leniency. Politkovskaya’s family will file an objection to Pavlyuchenkov’s deal, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.

The U.S. State Department issued a statement proclaiming that it will “continue to shine the spotlight on this case” until “all involved in her murder have been identified and prosecuted.”


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