Colleagues of slain Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya gathered Friday at the office of her paper Novaya Gazeta exactly 10 years after the crusading reporter was shot dead, AFP reports:
A crowd of friends, former colleagues and Western diplomats bowed their heads in a brief silent tribute to mark the moment 48-year-old Politkovskaya was killed. Supporters laid flowers at a memorial plaque in her memory on the wall of the Novaya Gazeta office.
“It is impossible to say that the murder is solved when those who ordered it have not been found,” an emotional Sergei Sokolov, the paper’s deputy editor, told journalists.
Russian authorities must find those who ordered Politkovskaya’s murder, the U.S. State Department, the OSCE and media groups urged today:
In the statement issued on October 6 — a day before the 10th anniversary of her killing — the State Department said Politkovskaya and other journalists in Russia’s North Caucasus in the last 20 years were “killed in retaliation for” their “efforts to uncover corruption, abuse, and violations of human rights.”
“Ongoing impunity for these unsolved murders continues to undermine freedom of speech and respect for justice and human rights in Russia,” the statement said.
On October 7, the OSCE representative on freedom of the media, Dunja Mijatovic, said that “it is unacceptable that 10 years on after this horrific murder the masterminds behind [the Politkovskaya] assassination are still at large.”
Ten years ago to the day after Politkovskaya was murdered, her death serves as a window to Vladimir Putin, the Kremlin autocrat whom many Americans are looking at for the first time, notes Carl Gershman, president of the National Endowment for Democracy.
“Politkovskaya was known throughout the world for her reporting on the second Chechen war, a conflict Putin pursued with the same ruthless brutality that he is using today in Syria, an approach U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power described as ‘barbarism,’” he writes for The Washington Post:
Politkovskaya understood that there was a connection between Putin’s sudden rise to power in 1999 by inflaming anti-Chechen passions and the horrible violence that followed. In her book “A Small Corner of Hell,” she wrote about “Westernizers” in Chechnya who looked toward Europe and with whom one could make peace. But Putin saw otherwise. He used the Chechen issue to seize and consolidate his power and then to extend it. Politkovskaya saw the danger, but she and other liberals in Russia were not strong enough to stop it.
“Anya risked her life again and again digging out the truth for its own sake, to have a right to live with dignity,” her friend Svetlana Gannushkina (left), the chair of the Civil Assistance Committee, told The Daily Beast. “Today there are many cowards in power who know the truth about Politkovskaya’s murder, but they have no dignity and are covering up the truth.”
A group of investigators set up to identify the masterminds has made no breakthrough for two years, AFP reports.
“All the trails lead back to Chechnya to the highest level of its elite, but the Russian authorities are stalling the investigation,” said Pavel Kanygin, a journalist at Novaya Gazeta. “Until there is a change of political regime in Russia, those who gave the order will remain free.”
Evidence of state abuses
“My mother, Natalia Estemirova (right), and the investigative journalist Anna Politkovskaya had worked together for several years by 2006, and their professional bond had evolved into a deep friendship,” Lana Estemirova writes for The Guardian:
My mother worked at the human rights centre Memorial, where she gathered evidence of state abuses, while also delivering aid and medication to those in need. Together, they were a super team who investigated the most heart-wrenching and dangerous cases in war-torn Chechnya…. My mother often used to say to me: “It’s so bad, it can’t get any worse – it can only get better.” However, as Ramzan Kadyrov started to solidify his grip on power, a new bloody era began. Anna rightfully predicted that Chechnya would suffer immensely in his hands.
Chechen’s autocratic leader Ramzan Kadyrov barely escaped an assassination attempt some months ago, according to a report by “Novaya Gazeta” [recently nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize], but the paper’s argument that the Chechen leader’s time in office has “really passed” is far more important, Window on Eurasia’s Paul Goble adds:
In a 6,000-word article, Elena Milashina (left) argues that “Kadyrov is constrained in ways no other Russian politician is. No one else faces such challenges or has such enemies.” As a result, “his time has really passed” with Moscow now recognizing that “there must be a new contract” between the center and Grozny to “keep Chechnya in Russia’s legal space.”
Now one of Russia’s leading investigative reporters, Milashina is widely seen as Politkovskaya’s heir, and has described the late journalist as “like a teacher for me.” Irina Borogan writes for The Guardian:
Anecdotal evidence suggests there are now more independent female than male reporters covering the post-Soviet conflict zones, from the North Caucasus to eastern Ukraine, and many more women investigating authorities’ abuses and corruption. Common among these women is a desire to right wrongs and expose the Kremlin’s corrupt policies.
“I’m not interested in writing about flowers,” says Milashina [who accepted the NED’s 2007 Democracy Award on behalf of Politkovskaya]. “I like to be helpful and find something wrong – that is my nature. I found the best use of this is journalism.”
Two other intrepid journalists, Jineth Bedoya Lima from Colombia (left), and Valentina Cherevatenko (right), a Russian activist from Novocherkassk, were yesterday named as this year’s recipients of the annual Anna Politkovskaya Award. The award, which honors women human rights defenders in war and conflict, is presented by RAW in WAR (Reach All Women in WAR).
Politkovskaya continues to inspire, writes Human Rights Watch’s Tanya Lokshina:
These days, very few journalists report from Chechnya. The local leadership has been making it increasingly difficult for Russian independent outlets and foreign correspondents to work in the region. They have fostered a climate of terror in which people no longer dare talk to journalists, except to lavishly compliment Kadyrov and his policies.
Journalists who persevere also find themselves at great risk — they’re threatened, detained, physically attacked. Still, they keep returning to Chechnya to find those incredibly brave souls who want their stories told, despite the fear of retaliation.
Politkovskaya’s children, Vera and Ilya (right), continue to call for further investigation into their mother’s murder, Deutsche-Welle adds.
“There really is the feeling that the brakes have been put on the investigation into the people who ordered it,” Ilya Politkovsky told RFE/RL. “In 10 years, we haven’t moved an iota toward finding the people who ordered the crime, but I still have hope.”
“The way the murders were carried out is similar,” Politkovsky said. “The [alleged] triggermen are being specially shown on camera to keep society content with them being caught. But totally missing in the investigation are the people who ordered [the killings]. It’s as if they don’t exist. On the one hand, they say all the possibilities are being looked at, as they said with us. But in actual fact nothing is going on.”
“It is really unfortunate that what we are seeing in the Nemtsov case and what is happening in the trial is extremely similar to our case. Again, there are the triggermen and middle-level organizers in court, and there is no word about who ordered the murder. It’s a real shame if the story repeats what happened with our case.”
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty published an English translation of the last interview Politkovskaya made to the foreign press, two days before her death, The Interpreter adds:
It turns out that on October 7, just an hour and a half before she was murdered, she also gave an interview on the phone to Vyacheslav Feraposhkin, a correspondent for the regional news site Caucasian Knot. Caucasian Knot titled their interview with Politkovskaya, “Kadyrov Won’t Be President of Chechnya.”
RFE/RL Azerbaijani journalist Khadija Ismayilova, who received the Anna Politkovskaya award for her professional courage in 2015 when she was in jail, wrote on Facebook on October 7 that those who killed Politkovskaya did not manage to silence her.
Panelists at the NED meeting on The Implications Of Political Violence In Russia include Maria Snegovaya, a Ph.D candidate in Comparative Politics and Statistical Methods at Columbia University, working on the sources of support for populist parties in Eastern Europe; Leonid Martynyuk, a Russian opposition author, video producer, and journalist; Kyle Parker, a member of the senior professional staff of the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the U.S. House of Representatives where he oversees the Department of State’s Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs; and Miriam Lanskoy, Senior Director of Russia and Eurasia at the National Endowment for Democracy, and co-author of The Chechen Struggle: Independence Won and Lost, with former Foreign Minister of Chechnya Ilyas Akhmadov.