Anna Politkovskaya (1958-2006)

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Anna Politkovskaya (1958-2006) 13.10.2006 09:15:11 (permalink)

Анна Степановна Политковская
Anna Politkovskaya

Anna Politkovskaya
[30/8/1958 - 7/10/2006]

    While attending a conference on the freedom of press organised by Reporters Without Borders in 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."[8]

    Aidan White of the International Federation of Journalists described her as bravest of the new breed of brave reporters who emerged in the dying days of the Soviet Union. "She faced down threats from all sides and was an inspiration to journalists both at home and abroad. Her death is a shocking outrage that will stun the world of journalism." [25]

Anna Stepanovna Politkovskaya (Russian: Анна Степановна Политковская; 30 August 1958 – 7 October 2006) was a U.S.-born[1] Russian journalist well known for her opposition to the Chechen conflict and the Putin administration.

Politkovskaya made her name reporting from Chechnya for Russia's liberal newspaper, Novaya Gazeta. Her writing was often polemical, as bitter in its condemnation of the Russian army and the Russian government as it was fervent in support of human rights and the rule of law.[2] Her murder caused a strong international reaction.


Early life

Politkovskaya was born Anna Mazepa in New York City in 1958, where her Soviet Ukrainian parents were diplomats at the United Nations (according to various sources her father was a high-ranking KGB officer[citation needed]). She studied journalism at Moscow State University, graduating in 1980, and began her career with the Izvestia newspaper.


From June 1999 to 2006, she wrote columns for the news publication Novaya Gazeta. She published several award-winning books about Chechnya and President Putin's regime[3], most recently the book Putin's Russia. She often received death threats as a result of her work.[4] In 2001, Politkovskaya fled to Vienna, following e-mail threats claiming that the OMON police 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.[5][6] In 2005, Lapin was convicted and jailed for torturing and "disappearing" a Chechen civilian detainee, the case exposed by Anna Politkovskaya in the article "The Disappearing People".

She had, on several occasions, been involved in negotiating the release of hostages, including the October 2002 Nord-Ost crisis in which Chechen rebels stormed a Moscow theatre. Politkovskaya was also involved in supporting the legal rights of victims' families.

During the Beslan school hostage crisis in September 2004 and while on her way to Beslan to help in negotiations with the hostage-takers, Politkovskaya fell violently ill and lost consciousness. Politkovskaya never made it to the school and claimed that she was poisoned after drinking tea on that flight.[7] However, the cause of her illness has not been determined, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.

Anna Politkovskaya giving TV interview in Moscow, 2001

While attending a conference on the freedom of press organised by Reporters Without Borders in 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."[8]

Politkovskaya received wide acclaim for her work in Chechnya[9], where she frequently visited hospitals and refugee camps to interview the victims. [10]

She authored numerous articles critical of the war in Chechnya, including a number that specifically aimed at exposing abuses committed under the Russian-backed Chechen president Akhmad Kadyrov, as well as his son, deputy prime -minister, then prime-minister, Ramzan Kadyrov. She also wrote a book critical of the Putin presidency, specifically his pursuit of the Second Chechen War. She tirelessly chronicled human rights abuses and policy failures in Chechnya and elsewhere in Russia's North Caucasus. In 2003, she published a book called 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.

Critics of Anna Politkovskaya's articles have accused her of being partisan by concentrating on the activities of Russian federal forces, but her supporters claim that she also strongly criticised the brutal tactics of the terrorists.[11]


2001: Prize of the Russian Union of Journalists
2001: Amnesty International Global Award for Human Rights Journalism
2002: PEN USA Freedom to Write Award
2002: International Women's Media Foundation Courage in Journalism Award
2003: Lettre Ulysses Award
2003: Hermann-Kesten-Medaille
2004: Olof Palme Prize (shared with Lyudmila Alekseyeva and Sergey Kovalyov)
2005: Prize for the Freedom and Future of the Media [2]

Wikinews has news related to:
Politkovskaya's deathPolitkovskaya was found shot dead on Saturday, 7 October 2006 (the same day as President Putin's birthday and two days after Ramzan Kadyrov's) in the elevator of her apartment block in central Moscow, Interfax and other Russian news agencies reported.[12][13][14][15] Police said a Makarov pistol and four shell casings were found beside her. Early reports have indicated a contract killing, as she was shot four times, once in the head, but it is currently unclear who ordered the killing.

Members of a rescue crew carry out the body of journalist Anna Politkovskaya

On the day of her murder, Politkovskaya had planned to file a lengthy story on torture practices believed to be used by Chechen authorities, Novaya Gazeta editor Dmitry Muratov said. Those accused in the story of practicing torture belong to security detachments loyal to Chechnya's pro-Moscow Prime Minister Ramzan Kadyrov, Muratov said. The detachments are known as kadyrovtsy. A day after Politkovskaya was found dead, police seized her computer hard disk and material she had assembled for an investigative article; the story may now never be published. Additionally, Muratov said, two photographs of the suspected torturers have disappeared. Prosecutor General Yury Chaika will personally oversee the investigation, his office announced on Sunday. Chaika's office said investigators were considering Politkovskaya's professional work as the primary motive for her murder. Billionaire State Duma deputy Alexander Lebedev, who bought 90 percent of Novaya Gazeta in June 2006, has posted a reward of 25 million rubles, just under US$1 million, for information leading to those responsible for Politkovskaya's death, Ekho Moskvy reported.

The funeral was held on Tuesday, 10 October, at 2:30 p.m., at the Troyekurovsky Cemetery.[16] Before Politkovskaya was laid to rest, more than 1,000 people filed past her coffin to pay their last respects.[17] 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.[18]

Vitaly Yaroshevsky, deputy editor of Novaya Gazeta, said: "The first thing that comes to mind is that Anna was killed for her professional activities. We don't see any other motive for this terrible crime."[19] Yaroshevsky said there were no immediate theories about who might be behind her killing, and noted that it might be convenient for an enemy of Kadyrov to kill Politkovskaya in order to blacken the Chechen premier’s name.[15] He said Politkovskaya gave an interview to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty last week in which she said she was a witness in a criminal case against Kadyrov in connection with abductions in Chechnya - a case based on her reporting. In that same interview, she called Kadyrov the "Stalin of our day." Law-enforcement sources said they were probing a "Chechen trail" in the apparent contract-killing, the Interfax news agency reported.

People lay flowers at the apartment building entrance where journalist Anna Politkovskaya was killed

Journalist Alexander Mayorov [3] argues that Politkovskaya's murder, which happened on Putin's birthday, is highly disadvantageous for the Russian authorities. He predicts that Western media will use this opportunity to blame Moscow for the death of one the most fiercely anti-Kremlin Russian media figures.[20]

Political scientist Stanislav Belkovskiy does not blame the Kremlin for Politkovskaya's murder directly. However, he uses her death as an opportunity to accuse the Kremlin of corruption and incompetence.

Political scientist Kirill Frolov considers Politkovskaya's murder a declaration of war against the Russian leadership. He compares the event with the death of Ukrainian journalist Georgiy Gongadze, whose kidnapping and murder in 2000 became a focus for protests against the then president Leonid Kuchma. Frolov fears that, as with Gongadze, Politkovskaya's death will be used as a pretext for a pro-Western revolution in Russia, similar to the Color Revolutions in Ukraine, Georgia and Kyrgyzstan.[21]

Journalist Oleg Kashin condemns both nationalistic critics of Politkovskaya who celebrated her death, and liberals who used it as an opportunity for anti-Russian loathing. According to Kashin, Politkovskaya was a marginal who did not play any significant role in the Russian media and political process. He expressed hope that Politkovskaya's murderers would be apprehended as soon as possible.[22]

Mikhail Gorbachev, the former Soviet President who promoted transparency and democracy, and is concerned about the increasing lack of pluralism in the country, became a minority shareholder to support the newspaper Novaya Gazeta this summer. Gorbachev told the Russian news agency Interfax about this assassination: "It is a savage crime against a professional and serious journalist and a courageous woman", "It is a blow to the entire democratic, independent press. It is a grave crime against the country, against all of us."[23]

People pay their last respects to slain Anna Politkovskaya
during a funeral ceremony at Troyekurovskoye

Abi Wright, a spokeswoman for the Committee to Protect Journalists, said: "She was an intrepid and brave reporter who repeatedly risked her life to report the news from that region. It's a devastating development for journalism in Russia."[24]

Aidan White of the International Federation of Journalists described her as bravest of the new breed of brave reporters who emerged in the dying days of the Soviet Union. "She faced down threats from all sides and was an inspiration to journalists both at home and abroad. Her death is a shocking outrage that will stun the world of journalism."[25]

Amnesty International said that it was appalled by the murder. Nicola Duckworth, Director of the organization's Europe and Central Asia Programme, said "Russia has lost a brave and dedicated human rights defender, who spoke out fearlessly against violence and injustice, and campaigned tirelessly to see justice done."[26]

Marat Guelman, a political technologist, said that he doesn't believe that the Kremlin could have killed a journalist. He also argued that the Kremlin should have guarded their own enemies, so their deaths wouldn't be used to blame the Kremlin.

President Vladimir Putin told his U.S. counterpart George W. Bush on the phone Monday that Russia's law enforcement agencies were doing everything possible to investigate the murder of Politkovskaya. Putin's statement was his first public comment on the murder of Politkovskaya.[27] Journalists and activists said Putin's comments came too late and questioned his decision to break two days of silence only during a phone conversation. "Putin was elected by the population of Russia and not by President Bush," said Oleg Panfilov, the head of the Center for Extreme Journalism, a press rights watchdog.[28]

Lyudmila Alekseyeva, the director of the Moscow Helsinki Group, said Putin's slow response was a betrayal of his role as head of state. "In such an exceptional case -- the murder of a world-renowned, admirable journalist -- the country's president should comment swiftly on such an incident," she said. "Russian citizens want to hear the president's opinion and whether he can guarantee the security of those journalists who try to follow in Anna Politkovskaya's footsteps, to be honest journalists."[29]


Protest in Moscow to commemorate journalist Anna PolitkovskayaOn 8 October 2006, hundreds rallied in downtown Moscow to protest the murder of Anna Politkovskaya and the recent crackdown on ethnic Georgians.[30] The demonstration was described by the Moscow-based liberal Echo of Moscow radio station as "the largest protest rally of the opposition recently held in Russia."[31] During the day following information about Politkovskaya's death, there was a demonstration and memorial consisting of 500 people in Moscow, as well as 300 people gathering in St. Petersburg.

A day after the murder more than one thousand people gathered at the Russian embassy in Helsinki, Finland to pay their respects to Politkovskaya. The demonstration was silent, with people holding candles. Three of Politkovskaya's books have been published in Finland as translated editions. [32]

On 10 October, 2,000 demonstrators called Putin a "murderer" during his visit to Dresden, Germany. [33][34][35]

Government reaction

Chechen Republic of Ichkeria — The Minister of Foreign Affairs of the separatist Chechen Republic of Ichkeria, Akhmed Zakayev, expressed:
    "outrage" at the murder, calling on the world community "to condemn in the strongest possible terms the demonstrative execution of one of the foremost champions of human rights and freedoms, and to conduct an independent international inquiry into this heinous act of terrorism."[36]

Chechnya — President Alu Alkhanov, in his interview with Itar-Tass, expressed his revulsion over Politkovskaya's murder:

    stating that those responsible should receive "the most severe punishment." He noted that while his views on what has occurred in Chechnya are very different from those of Politkovskaya, he shared her view on the destiny of the Chechen people. He also expressed his condolences to her colleagues.[37]

Chechnya — Chechen Premier Minister Ramzan Kadyrov denied rumors on the so-called "Chechen trace" in case of the murder of Politkovskaya.
    "To speculate on this bloody crime without any reasons and serious proofs means to argue at the level of rumors and gossips; it does not adorn either the press or politicians," Kadyrov stressed. Also, he said that to attempt the life of a journalist means to try to prevent freedom of speech. "Despite not always objective character of the journalist's materials about Chechnya, I regret very much the events happened in such way," the premier said. [38]

Europe — The Finnish Ministry for Foreign Affairs [4] gave the following statement,[39] as Finland currently holds the Presidency of the EU Council:
    "The Presidency of the European Union has learned with deep regret about the killing in Moscow of Anna Politkovskaya, well-known journalist and defender of freedom of expression in Russia. The Presidency calls for a thorough investigation of this heinous crime and the bringing of its perpetrators to justice." and "On behalf of the European Union, the Presidency expresses its deepest sympathy to the family and friends of Anna Politkovskaya."

Finland — President Tarja Halonen said she was shocked and horrified at the killing and expressed the hope that Russia would soon find ways of preventing any repetition of such crimes:
    "I very much hope that two things can be achieved in Russia through different means. One is respect for different opinions and the other is a strengthening of the rule of law, so that people can have a sense of safety." [...] "Taking a human life, hurting someone, is always a shocking matter. And when this apparently also involves the violation of freedom of expression it makes the crime that much more appalling." [40]

Finland — The Finnish Minister for Foreign Affairs, Erkki Tuomioja, stated:
    "I'm deeply shocked about this [murder], I knew her and I was familiar with her work. I knew she was extremely brave, because for her revelations, outspokenness and honesty she has gained many enemies. This kind of murder will put the credibility of the Russian administration into question. We will now see to what degree the Russian authorities are able and willing to solve the murder and bring to account the offenders, wherever the evidence may lead."[41]

France — French President Jacques Chirac on Tuesday sent a letter to Politkovskaya's two children:
    "The hateful murder of your mother" ... "has shocked me just as it has shocked all the French and all those who defend press freedom," Chirac said. "You should understand how important it is to France that everything be done to insure justice is done and that the murderers of your mother be found and punished."[42]

Germany — At a joint press conference with Russian President Putin, Chancellor Angela Merkel expressed her shock at the murder of Politkovskaya.
    "The Russian president has promised me that everything possible will be done to solve that murder," she added.[43]

Russia — In a statement in Dresden, Germany that came three days after the murder, President Vladimir Putin promised a "thorough investigation."[44] Furthermore:
    "Whoever has committed this crime," Putin said, "and whatever their guiding motives, we should state that this is a horribly cruel crime. It must not remain unpunished, of course."[45] According to Putin, Politkovskaya's influence on Russian political life was "very minor."[46] Politkovskaya was a critic of the authorities, Putin noted, and her influence should not be overestimated. "It was minimal," he concluded. "She was known among journalists and in human rights circles and in the West, but I repeat that she had no influence on political life. Her murder causes much more harm than her publications did. Whoever did it will be punished." Two hours later, at the session of the St. Petersburg Dialog, the subject arose again. "Those people who are hiding from Russian justice are willing to sacrifice anyone to create a wave of anti-Russian feeling," Putin said.[43]

Sweden — The Swedish Minister for Foreign Affairs, Carl Bildt, stated:
    "I have been deeply saddened and distressed to hear of the killing of Anna Politkovskaya. Her struggle for human rights and freedoms was an important contribution to the work of making a better Russia and a better Europe. I sincerely hope that the Russian authorities will do their utmost to apprehend those responsible and clarify what lies behind this deed."[47]

Ukraine — Ukrainian President Viktor Yuschenko stated in a press release:
    “In Ukraine, we will always remember Anna Politkovskaya as an honest and courageous journalist committed to the ideas of justice and the protection of human rights."[48]

United Kingdom — In a joint statement with President George W. Bush, Prime Minister Tony Blair said:

    "We condemn this murder and call for a thorough investigation into this terrible crime." President Bush too urged Moscow "to conduct a vigorous and thorough investigation".[49]

United States — In Washington, the State Department spokesman, Sean McCormack, said the United States...
    " shocked and profoundly saddened by the brutal murder of independent Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya" and that it "urges the Russian government to conduct an immediate and thorough investigation in order to find, prosecute and bring to justice all those responsible for this heinous murder."[50][15]

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