Russia: Watchdogs Condemn Politkovskaya Killing
October 8, 2006 (RFE/RL) -- Anna Politkovskaya, a prominent Russian journalist
known for her critical coverage of the war in Chechnya, was shot dead on October
6 in her apartment building in
Anna Politkovskaya in April at
Moscow police said
Politkovskaya's body was found by a neighbor in an elevator in the apartment
building where she was living in the city center. The Interfax news agency
quoted police officials as saying a pistol and four bullets were found in the
Reports say supporters have gathered outside the building,
many laying flowers at the site.
'An Outrage And A
Politkovskaya was respected for her critical, in-depth
coverage of the Russian government's campaign in Chechnya. She worked for
"Novaya gazeta," a newspaper known for its opposition to the
Grigory Yavlinsky of the liberal opposition
Yabloko party told RFE/RL's Russian Service that the killing was "an outrage and
"Anna Politkovskaya was a person who was No. 1 in political
journalism, in the sense that she wrote everything she thought and everything
she saw," Yavlinsky said.
"She was always in the most critical places --
Chechnya, Beslan. Her material uncovered the essence of everything taking place
in Russian politics, and generally in Russian life," he said. "She was a person
who could bring secrets out into the open. Her murder -- the destruction of such
a person -- is a very symbolic event for Russia."
Yavlinsky added: "The
general atmosphere of psychosis, hysteria, chauvinism, nationalism in the
country can easily provoke precisely these kinds of developments. The pogroms
that are taking place under conditions of a nationalistic fever sanctioned by
the authorities, they easily lead to a situation where the criminal world feels
that it is absolutely beyond punishment. The past month has seen two of the
biggest political murders -- the murder of [Russian Central Bank First Deputy
Chairman Andrei] Kozlov and the murder of Politkovskaya."
Abuses In Chechnya
Politkovskaya's coverage of Chechnya often
extended beyond standard reporting work. In 2002, she acted as a negotiator with
Chechen rebels who laid siege to a Moscow theater.
In books like "The
Dirty War" and "A Small Corner of Hell," Politkovskaya described the massive
human rights abuses rampant in Chechnya. She was also openly critical of Russian
President Vladimir Putin for his role in the Chechen campaign.
outspoken style came at a price. She had been arrested in the past, and
complained of sometimes being threatened.
In 2004, she fell seriously ill
with symptoms of food poisoning after drinking tea on a flight from Moscow to
southern Russia during the school hostage crisis in Beslan, North Ossetia. At
the time, her colleagues suspected it was an attempt on her life.
Yakovenko, general secretary of the Russian Union of Journalists, said he
believes her death is tied to her critical stance on the Kremlin and
"There's no doubt that this murder was tied to her professional
work as a journalist," he said. "It's clearly a contract killing -- that can be
seen from the circumstances. The fact that the person was killed in the entryway
of their apartment building, that the pistol was left at the scene of the crime
-- all that is the signature of a professional hired killer.
"If our journalists aren't able unite around
an independent journalistic investigation of this murder, then I have the
feeling that after a certain period Russian journalism will simply vanish as a
profession from our country," Yakovenko added. "In the past 15 years, 246
journalists have been killed here, and not once has the state been able to
investigate and solve these murders in a normal way."
There has been no
immediate reaction for the Kremlin. The Moscow city prosecutor's office
announced it has opened an investigation into the murder. First Deputy
Prosecutor Vyacheslav Rosinsky said they were looking into the possibility of a
"premeditated murder." Prosecutor-General Yury Chaika today took personal charge
of the investigation.
International Condemnation, Calls For
International media and rights watchdogs were quick to
condemn the killing.
Belgian Foreign Minister Karel De Gucht, the
chairman in office of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe
(OSCE), called Politkovskaya "one of Russia's most outstanding investigative
journalists and political commentators."
He called upon Russian
authorities to track down those responsible as soon as possible. Politkovskaya
received the 2003 OSCE Prize for Journalism and Democracy.
the general secretary of the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), a
media watchdog based in Brussels, told RFE/RL that Politkovskaya's slaying was
clearly a "targeted assassination," and he called on the government to "act
immediately to bring the killers to justice."
"For the IFJ, it's very clear to us that
when a journalist of such a reputation can be killed in this way, it reflects on
the state of lawlessness that is threatening to overwhelm the whole of Russian
journalism," White said.
White called Politkovskaya the "bravest of a
new breed of brave Russian reporters."
In New York, the Committee to
Protect Journalists described the killing as a "devastating development for
journalism in Russia." Paris-based Reporters Without Borders said, "Russia is a
violent country and violent to journalists."
The killing was also
condemned by rights watchdog Amnesty International, and by former Soviet
President Mikhail Gorbachev, who is also a shareholder in "Novaya gazeta." The
U.S. State Department said the United States was "shocked and profoundly
saddened" by the murder, and called on the Russian government to conduct a
Terry Davis, the secretary-general of the
Council of Europe, expressed sympathy for Politkovskaya's family and said she
was a woman who "had a lot of enemies as a result of her honesty."
is terrible news. Obviously I'm very deeply shocked and concerned about what has
happened," Davis said. "She was a woman of great personal courage, and she had
an international reputation for honesty and independence in her work, in her
reporting from places like Chechnya. And so she'll be very badly missed by all
Lev Ponomaryov, chairman of the For Human Rights activist group,
said the rights community was devastated by the loss of Politkovskaya.
brilliant journalist. A person who was always on the front line. There were a
lot of other things that we did -- organizing protests, and the like," he said.
"But she was in Chechnya. She was doing 10 times more than we were. And Chechnya
is the front line. She was always putting herself at risk. She had already been
poisoned. Of course, it's not right that women go before a man. But that's what
"Of course, if you consider who did this,
considering that today is Putin's birthday, it's a complex political
provocation," Ponomaryov added. "Someone sat -- someone who was absolutely
indifferent to the fact that this was a human life -- and simply dealt himself a
game of political solitaire. He planned this murder. Who did this? An enemy of
Putin? An ally of Putin? We don't know. A person for whom human life means
Politkovskaya, a 48-year-old mother of two, had been working on
a story about torture in Chechnya in the days before her death, her newspaper
said. Deputy editor Vitaly Yaroshevsky said today that the article was due to be
published on October 9, but the text had not yet been submitted.
a person of principles, an honest journalist," her husband Aleksandr said. "She
probably belonged to another time."
... Payvand News - 10/8/06 ... --