“Look, such decisions in this country are not made by the president. We don’t have such a custom – to kill anyone.”
These are the words of Russian President Vladimir Putin last year when he commented on convicted opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who was attempted to be assassinated and subsequently sentenced to prison after returning to Russia.
And Putin is largely right. Naturally, he cannot be personally responsible for every single one of the many political murders in his country.
However, he is guilty of one thing without a doubt – that he built a system where violence is considered a legitimate way to resolve conflicts, and the murders of political opponents, dissidents, business competitors, journalists or critics in most cases remain undetected.
We recently witnessed how selectively the system can act and how in just two days the security services were able to reveal to the smallest detail who, how and why killed Alexander Dugin’s daughter. All that is missing are demonstrative and spectacular arrests to show the power of the system.
At the same time, however, she is far from working as quickly and decisively when it is not about people close to her. For example, it is still not clear who is behind the murder of investigative journalist Anna Politkovskaya.
Her death shocked not only Russia, but also the international community. To this day, it is not known who ordered the murder, in which on October 7, 2006, Politkovskaya was shot dead in the elevator of her apartment block while returning with purchases for her home.
The journalist became known for her sharp criticism of the second war in Chechnya, and a large part of her career was spent in various investigations against the rule of Putin and that of the Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov.
She herself was not born in Russia – she first saw the light of day on August 30, 1958 in New York, as her parents were Soviet diplomats at the UN headquarters.
In fact, on her father’s side, Politkovskaya comes from the old Ukrainian Mazepa family with roots dating back to the 16th century. Her ancestors include people such as Zaporozhian Cossack hetman Ivan Mazepa, who fought on the Swedish side at the Battle of Poltava against Peter the Great in 1709, and Isaac Mazepa, who briefly headed the Ukrainian government during the short-lived Ukrainian People’s a republic divided between Poland and the USSR.
Although she was the child of privileged party members, Anna Mazepa did not grow up like the typical child of apparatchiks. Because she was born in the US, she has American citizenship, but she never decided to take advantage of it, even when she started receiving threats on her life.
He graduated in journalism and married his colleague Alexander Politkovski, who would later become a colleague of the murdered TV presenter Vladislav Listev, who was shot in his home in 1995. And in this case, to this day, it is still unknown who the guarantor is.
After the collapse of the USSR, Politkovskaya worked as a journalist and reporter in several media and mainly dealt with social problems and especially the two Chechen wars, telling about the suffering and fate of ordinary people, soldiers and their mothers, Chechen women and children.
Her materials show the human face of war and are based on information from human rights organizations such as Memorial. Through them, the world learns about all war crimes and cases of disappeared, tortured or executed without trial and sentence. Politkovskaya also reveals the extent to which corruption has penetrated the army and law enforcement agencies.
That is why he incurs the wrath of the new government in Moscow when Vladimir Putin comes to power.
Politkovskaya is highly critical of him, as in her book “Putin’s Russia” she describes a deeply corrupt system where judges and prosecutors are repressed if they do not follow certain instructions, and the entire country is controlled by a gang of oligarchs reminiscent of mafia bosses who are supported by the state.
Condemns the routine kidnapping, murder, rape and torture of people in Chechnya by the Russian military, and accuses Putin of stifling all possible civil liberties in order to assert his authoritarian regime.
However, the worst thing for her is that the Russian people themselves allow all this.
“We are responsible for Putin’s policies,” he wrote in his conclusion. “Society has shown boundless apathy… By entrenching the Chekists in power, we have allowed them to see our fear and thereby only strengthened their desire to treat us like cattle. The KGB respects only the strong. It devours the weak. We the best of all nations we need to know that.”
Because of her work, the journalist was repeatedly threatened with death, and in 2001 she was even detained and tortured by Russian soldiers in Chechnya because of her coverage of the conflict.
Three years later, an attempt was made to poison her while traveling to the hostage crisis in Beslan, and even the radioactive polonium-poisoned ex-spy Alexander Litvinenko warned before his death that there was imminent danger to her life.
Politkovskaya’s detractors finally caught up with her on October 7, 2006 (Putin’s birthday and two days after Ramzan Kadyrov’s birthday), when she was shot three times in the elevator of her apartment building.
Just in case, he gets a control shot in the head. A few weeks later, Litvinenko was also killed.
A total of six people were convicted in the case, in a trial that lasted until 2014. The shooter Rustam Mahmudov was sentenced to life in prison, and his brothers Jabrail and Ibrahim were sent to a penal colony for 14 and 12 years respectively. Former police officer Sergey Khadzhikurbanov was sentenced to 20 years in prison.
Chechen criminal and businessman Lom-Ali Gaitukaev was sentenced to life for his part in organizing the murder and died in a penal colony in 2017. Another former police officer, Lieutenant Colonel Dmitry Pavlyuchenkov, was sentenced to 11 years in prison for providing the killer’s reward.
At maximum simplification, the criminal scheme looks like this: Pavlyuchenkov hands over the money for the murder of Gaidukaev, he gathers a group to track down and kill Politkovskaya. Rustam Mahmudov shot. However, from whom Dmitry Pavlyuchenkov received the order and the money for the murder is still unknown.
The thread connecting the middleman, the organizer and the perpetrators of the murder to the client, just like 16 years ago, goes nowhere.
For the state-run Russian media in Putin’s system, Politkovskaya remains a traitor and an agent of foreign powers.
In the rest of the world, however, she will always be remembered as one of the few voices of Russian conscience and a symbol of free speech. A man seeking justice and truth. This is why the world will continue to remember the murdered journalist Anna Politkovskaya despite all the Kremlin’s propaganda campaigns.