November 2, 2016 – On the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists, PEN International calls on Russia to renew efforts to bring the masterminds behind the killing of Anna Politkovskya to justice. Anna Politkovskaya was a prominent Russian investigative journalist and writer who garnered acclaim for her coverage of the Chechen conflict, and who was a vocal critic of President Vladimir Putin’s policy in Chechnya. Her work led to threats against her life as well as severe harassment at the hands of Russian authorities. In 2004 she was poisoned on a flight, while on her way to negotiate the release of hostages in a school in Beslan, North Ossetia.
On October 7, 2006, Anna Politkovskaya was murdered in her apartment building in central Moscow. In May 2014 five men were finally convicted, after a lengthy retrial, of having been involved in Politkovskaya’s murder, including three who had been acquitted in a previous trial. In June 2014, all five were sentenced to prison terms, with two receiving life sentences.
Whilst welcoming this significant development, PEN International remains gravely concerned that those responsible for ordering the killing have not yet been brought to justice (see background bel0w). On the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists, PEN International calls on the Russian government to renew its efforts to identify the masterminds behind the journalist’s murder and bring them to justice.
Send appeals calling on the Russian authorities to demonstrate its commitment to end impunity for crimes against journalist and to uphold justice and freedom of expression by identifying and convicting all those masterminded Anna Politkovskya’s assassination.
His Excellency Vladimir Putin
President of the Russian Federation
23, Ilyinka Street,
Moscow, 103132, Russia
You can send this appeal online via an electronic form here.
Mr. Aleksandr Bastrykin
Head of the Investigative Committee of Russian Federation
The Investigative Committee of Russian Federation
105005, Russia, Moscow,
Technicheskii Lane, 2
Please copy your appeals to the Embassy of Russia in your country. A list of embassies can be found here.
Please send us copies of your letters or information about other activities and of any responses received. Publicity PEN members are encouraged to publish articles and opinion pieces in your national or local press highlighting the case of Anna Politkovskaya and the situation of freedom of expression in Russia and impunity for crimes against journalists.
Social Media Suggested tweet:
#Russia: Bring masterminds behind Anna Politkovskya’s murder to justice #JusticeforAnna @PutinRF_Eng
On October 7, 2006, Anna Politkovskaya, who worked for Novaya Gazeta, was found dead in the lift of her Moscow apartment; she had been shot in the head, in what was clearly a contract killing. The trial of the three men accused of carrying out the killing – brothers Rustam Makhmudov, Dzhabrail Makhmudov and Ibragim Makhmudov – began on November 17, 2008, alongside another man, a former FSB agent accused of abuse of power and extortion, but all four were acquitted due to a lack of evidence on 19 February 2009 after a trial which was described at the time as “seriously flawed”. This ruling was overturned by the Russian Supreme Court, which ordered the four to be rearrested and retried. In July 2012, the former head of surveillance at Moscow’s Main Internal Affairs Directorate, Lt. Col. Dmitry Pavlyuchenkov, was charged in a separate case with planning the murder.
Pavluychenkov – who arranged and carried out the surveillance on Politkovskaya, secured the services of the three Chechen brothers and provided them with the murder weapon – was sentenced to 11 years in prison in a special plea bargain in December 2012. He claimed that Lom Ali Gaitukayev, a convicted Chechen crime boss on trial for Politkovskaya’s murder, had told him that Russian oligarch Boris Berezovsky and Chechen separatist leader Akhmed Zakayev, both living in exile, were the masterminds of the assassination, which both men have denied.
Official investigations into their involvement have reportedly proved fruitless, and legal representatives of Politkovskaya’s children insist that the Berezovsky-Zakayev allegations are devoid of evidence. In an interview with the Committee to Protect Journalists, head of Novaya Gazeta’s department of investigations Sergey Sokolov said: “We are getting the impression that law enforcement is unwilling to get to the bottom of the crime chain, because, apparently, the mastermind is an influential person in the Russian power hierarchy.”
In 2014, after a lengthy trial, five men were convicted for Politkovskya’s murder. Rustam Makhmudov, a Chechen convicted of firing the fatal shots, and his uncle Lom-Ali Gaitukayev, found guilty of organising the hit, were jailed for life.
Makhmudov’s two brothers, Dzhabrail and Ibragim, were sentenced to 14 and 12 years respectively in a penal colony, while former Moscow police officer Sergei Khadzhikurbanov was handed a 20-year prison term.
Impunity remains a serious concern in Russia, with the Committee to Protect Journalists recording at least 36 cases of murders of journalists in the country since 1992, the majority unresolved. Among them, journalist Akhmednabi Akhmednabiev was shot to death in 2015 outside his home near the Dagestani capital, Makhachkala. Today, three years later, no one has been arrested in connection with his murder.
In 2009, journalist and human rights defender Natalia Estemirova, a colleague of Anna Politkovskaya’s, was kidnapped and murdered in Grozny, Chechnya. Today, seven years later, her family are no nearer knowing the truth about who killed her and have petitioned the European Court of Human Rights about the flawed investigation into Estemirova’s death.