Who Killed Anna Politkovskaya?

An excerpt from a transcript of the October 7 edition of “The Access Code” – Yulia Latynina’s weekly phone-in program on Echo of Moscow (my translation):

I begin, of course, with the most terrible news not only in the last month and week, but in a very long time – the news of Anna Politkovskaya’s murder. She was killed just two hours ago in the entrance of her own apartment building. And it can be said that this is a turning-point in Russian journalism. This is not even the murder of Dmitry Kholodov, this is not even the murder of Khlebnikov – this is the murder of a person who was more than a journalist – a defender of human rights who always took the side of the weak and the injured, and of whom it can be said that now and then she was wrong, now and then she exaggerated, but never, not once in her life, wrote a single line in which she did not sincerely believe. A person of quite fanatical conviction and limitless bravery, the kind of bravery I personally do not possess.

Hypotheses are already being discussed: some business connected with Osman Boliyev. Here someone has even written: “a birthday present for Putin” – I got it as a text message just now. The only thing is, this was the last present Putin needed. If you look at Politkovskaya’s last publications over the last few months, they are all about Chechnya, and strictly speaking only about Ramzan Kadyrov. Politkovskaya hated him. And two days ago it was Ramzan Kadyrov’s birthday, and so really that makes it possible to suggest only one motive for the murder and only two versions of what may have happened. One is for it to be said that this was a birthday present for Ramzan. Whether Kadyrov wants such a present is also an open question. And the other is that this is a way of telling Moscow that this Kadyrov fellow is out of control, for there is a terrible bitterness towards Kadyrov among the FSB operatives whom he has kicked out of Chechnya, and among those Chechen commanders who were removed from the Chechen leadership. Very many of them are located in Moscow, very many of them also run about the corridors of the Kremlin and the FSB saying Kadyrov is a so-and-so, working for the Americans, and other similar things.

In other words, I think this story has a concrete connection with Chechnya, a concrete connection with Kadyrov, but there are two totally different versions of why it may have happened. At all events, I think that Politkovskaya’s killers will not be found. And really, something else should also be added. It was even mentioned on the news just now: the attempt to poison her when she tried to fly to Beslan. Let me remind you of the context of that poisoning episode. It was all a bit vague, people even laughed about it: there you go, they said, there’s Politkovskaya saying they’ve tried to poison her again, and the poisoning was obviously of a non-lethal kind. But she was taken off the plane, and as a result she didn’t take part in the events at Beslan.

So I didn’t really understand what had taken place until I talked in London to Mr. Akhmed Zakayev, and we had a conversation on the subject of why Maskhadov and Zakayev didn’t take part in the negotiations that started on September 1. Zakayev began by telling me that he didn’t know who had seized the school until September 2. This was a rather strange assertion. And so I naturally asked the question: did no one call you? Politkovskaya called me, Zakayev said, and she promised to call again from Beslan. But as you knpw, she never got to Beslan. But, I asked, did anyone else call you? Babitsky did, Zakayev replied, but then, as is well known, he didn’t get to Beslan either. So then it was clear what had happened. Politkovskaya was removed from the scene not because she was a woman journalist, i.e., not as someone who was capable of describing the events, but because she was a person capable of taking part in them. I.e., not as a journalist, but as a historical figure, who as soon she arrived in Beslan would have instantly asked what had happened and as soon as it was clear that Chechen separatists were involved, would have immediately thrust the telephone under Zakayev’s nose and said, here, you make the call.

Exactly the same thing has happened now. I don’t believe that it was because of some journalistic material, investigations that had fallen into her hands, whose publication had to be prevented. I say it again: she was killed because she was a historical figure, she was killed because she was a person who was pointed to as being a personal enemy of Ramzan Kadyrov. And while it’s obvious that this murder is indeed in the interests of very different people and very different groups, its basic and most probably its entire connection can only be with Chechnya.

(Hat tip: ML)

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