PEN International welcomes last week’s conviction of the former police chief who helped orchestrate Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya’s murder in 2006, but is concerned that the masterminds behind her killing continue to enjoy impunity. A Moscow court sentenced Lt. Col. Pavlyuchenkov to 11 years in prison on December 14, 2012, after he entered a plea bargain that allowed him to admit his guilt without testifying in court. He named two exiled opposition figures as masterminds behind the killing in what Politkovskaya’s family has called “politically-motivated” testimony. The family’s lawyers are currently planning an appeal, calling for Pavlyuchenkov to be given a longer sentence.

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Background Information

A prominent investigative journalist and writer who had garnered acclaim for her coverage of the Chechen conflict (including the books A Dirty War: A Russian Reporter in Chechnya (2001), and A Small Corner of Hell: Dispatches from Chechnya (2003)), Politkovskaya had also been a vocal critic of President Vladimir Putin, describing him as a “power-hungry product of his own history in the armed forces” in her 2004 book Putin’s Russia. Over the years, her work led to threats against her life as well as severe harassment at the hands of Russian authorities.

On October 7, 2006, Anna Politkovskaya was found dead in the elevator of her Moscow apartment; she had been shot in the head, executed 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, but all three were acquitted due to a lack of evidence on February 19, 2009, after a trial that was described at the time as “seriously flawed.” This ruling was overturned by the Russian Supreme Court, which ordered the three to be re-arrested and re-tried. Later, the former head of surveillance at Moscow’s Main Internal Affairs Directorate Lt. Col. Dmitry Pavlyuchenkov was also charged, alongside former police officer Sergei Khadzhikurbanov and an already incarcerated criminal, Chechen crime boss Lom Ali Gaitukayev. The trial of these other five suspects implicated in Politkovskaya’s murder is still ongoing.

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, has named the exiled Russian oligarch Boris Berezovsky and Chechen separatist leader Akhmed Zakayev as the alleged masterminds of Politkovskaya’s murder. 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, Sergey Sokolov, head of Novaya Gazeta’s department of investigations, 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.”

For More Information:

BBC News: Ex-policeman Jailed in Russia over Politkovskaya Murder
Committee to Protect Journalists: Russia Still Far from Solving Politkovskaya Murder

Write A Letter

  • Urging the Russian government to bring to justice everyone involved in the murder of Anna Politkovskaya;
  • Emphasizing the importance of pursuing the masterminds behind the murder as an indication of Russia’s commitment to ensure that such acts cannot be carried out with impunity.

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President Vladimir Putin
President of the Russian Federation
23, Ilyinka Street
Moscow, 103132
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