Justice for Anna
Ten people have been arrested in connection with the murder of journalist Anna Politkovskaya. This was announced at a news conference given on August 27 by the General Prosecutor, Yuri Chaika. It was confirmed by the special investigator from the Prosecutor General’s Office, Pyotr Garibyan. Charges have been brought against the arrested concerning several episodes […]
28 Aug 07

Ten people have been arrested in connection with the murder of journalist Anna Politkovskaya. This was announced at a news conference given on August 27 by the General Prosecutor, Yuri Chaika. It was confirmed by the special investigator from the Prosecutor General’s Office, Pyotr Garibyan. Charges have been brought against the arrested concerning several episodes of criminal activity. The court legitimated detentions made from August 15-23 and sanctioned the arrests. Active investigations are now being carried out, including interrogations and searches.

Of course, it’s too early to talk about solving Anna Politkovskaya’s murder. Not all the accomplices have been detained, while the guilt of those who have been arrested is yet to be proved. In such a complicated case, mistakes are possible while the presumption of innocence cannot be cancelled, even considering that it was murder in the first degree. All must be proved cogently so that the case does not break down in court. That is why we cannot disclose all the details known to journalists from Novaya gazeta who continue their own investigation into Anna’s murder.

So who has been arrested? First, there are several members of a rather big and well-known criminal ethnic gang that specialises in contract murders. Second, there are several officers (former and acting ones) from law enforcement bodies and the special services. We know their record of service and their record of criminal episodes, and we have an idea of how roles were assigned in the preparation and completion of Anna Politkovskaya’s murder.

The number of the arrested and those who are to be arrested raises several points.

First, one may assume that separate investigations by the Prosecutor General’s Office and by Novaya gazeta led to at least two stable criminal groups that cooperate ‘fruitfully’ with each other. Anna wrote about this interpenetration of crime and law enforcement bodies many times. An absence of control allows warrant officers and majors to sell their official powers. It must be stressed that this is a joint enterprise established years ago and based on grave crimes and offences. If we unravelled this tangle, then the details of many famous unsolved cases would be disclosed.

Second, the murder was planned and prepared meticulously by professionals who had had experience of solving such kinds of ‘problems’.

Third, it had a high cost. It’s too early to talk about those who ordered this murder. Besides, we don’t have guarantees that real clients’ names will be mentioned in the indictment. And that wouldn’t be the investigation’s fault.

We have repeated many times that we don’t have complaints against those who are investigating the murder of Novaya gazeta’s journalist. We are cooperating, and the mutual opinion is that this cooperation is effective. We just want to be sure that certain ‘rational reasons’ that do not relate to this matter directly do not influence the outcome of our joint work. The outcome we need is clear. The killers, accomplices and real clients of this murder must be established and convicted.

Analysing the circumstances of Anna’s death, we approximately reconstructed the crime. The mediators got the order in the spring or summer of 2006. At the beginning of September, Politkovskaya began to be shadowed. Prior to that, her actual address (she had moved to a flat on Lesnaya Street not long before that) was established using the facilities of the special services. She was shadowed from morning till night. Generally, Anna was very careful, considering the number of hidden and evident threats. She always reported to editorial staff about all ‘peculiarities’ that happened to her and her relatives.

But by the end of August and beginning of September the situation changed. Her mother was in hospital and she had just buried her father. Anna’s routine was practically the same every day then, as opposed from her usual working days. In the morning she had a walk with her dog, and then she went shopping and went to see her mother in the hospital. In the afternoon she again took her dog for a walk and late in the day she went to the hospital again. When you have problems with your relatives you don’t think about yourself too much. ANNA did mention, though, some strange people that she had met on her staircase.

Yes, those strange people – to put it more exactly one man. We think that the killer had entered the block of flats at least twice before, following Politkovskaya and scouting the place. On 7 October at 16:01 he fired five shots. The first and the fifth bullet (checking shot) were shot into the head. A remodeled gas gun with silencer was left at the crime scene. There wes no previous crime records of the gun.

The killer rushed out of the door, got in a car and left the crime scene. The publication of the frames fixing all this, made by someone and passed to journalists, prejudiced the investigation hugely. As you understand, there are a lot of essential details lying behind this chronicle that cannot be disclosed yet.

We often hear questions and reproaches as to why the investigation has taken so long, and why we journalists have been saying ‘no comment’ for such a long time.

As for the terms of the investigation. Anna Politkovskaya published over 500 articles in Novaya gazeta. Almost each one of them could have been the reason for the murder. It’s not only material about Chechnya. The geography is rather large. It’s Dagestan, Ingushetia, Kabardino-Balkaria, Astrakhan, Bashkiria, St Petersburg, and Moscow. That is why initially there were many versions. One of the first ones was about a special squad officer in the city of Khanty-Mansiysk whose family name is Lapin. This man threatened Politkovskaya many times. Now he is being tried in the court in another case. Lapin’s accomplices, who are also officers, were wanted by the federal security service. The investigation of Politkovskaya’s murder had questions for them too. One of them was found in the city of Khanty-Mansiysk. He didn’t hide; he lived at home and continued his service. But it turned out that these people didn’t have any connection to this murder.

This way, step by step, version by version, the skilful investigative work was done. Many things were happening around these two investigations – ours and the official one. Agents provocateurs tried to foul the trail and divert the investigation. Some people tried to get the money offered by Novaya gazeta’s shareholder Alexander Lebedev. There were also threats and we will discuss those at another time.

And finally. Our reserve in communicating with our colleagues could have caused offence. Some people said we were taking care not to fall foul of anyone and that’s why we kept silent. The yellow press carried out their own investigations and communicated silly things tallking about ‘witnesses’ and giving their names (mainly Anna’s relatives and people who had no relation to this matter). All that endangered those people’s lives. Some people insisted on the ‘correct’ versions given by high ranking officials. (By the way, neither presidential aide Igor Shuvalov nor Chechen president Ramzan Kadyrov who made loud statements about this case, have been interrogated yet).

Such was the background to the investigation. This is the answer to the question ‘why has it taken so long?’ And we will wait as long as need be to be sure that the sentence is indisputable and true.

Editorial board of Novaya Gazeta

This piece appeared in Novaya Gazeta on 27 August