A Russian individual who was found guilty for the murder of journalist Anna Politkovskaya and later fought in Ukraine has been granted clemency.
According to his lawyer, a previous detective from Russia who was found guilty for the killing of a Russian journalist in 2006 has been granted clemency in return for participating in combat in Ukraine.
In 2014, Sergei Khadzhikurbanov was sentenced to 20 years in prison for his involvement in planning the killing of Anna Politkovskaya, a renowned journalist at the now-defunct independent Russian publication Novaya Gazeta.
According to Khadzhikurbanov’s lawyer, Alexei Mikhalchik, Khadzhikurbanov has been granted a pardon by the president for his crime. This came after he completed a six-month military contract in Ukraine. The lawyer also stated that Khadzhikurbanov has chosen to continue serving in the Ukrainian armed forces.
In October 2006, Politkovskaya was fatally shot outside her Moscow residence. This act emphasized the increasing danger faced by journalists in Russia, as the government tightened its control and suppression of the media and dissenting voices.
Gulnoza Said, the coordinator for the Europe and Central Asia program at the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), denounced the pardon as a violation of press freedom.
Said, speaking to VOA, expressed disappointment in the actions of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Rather than seeking justice for the case of Politkovskaya, one of the perpetrators was pardoned, which is seen as a disrespect to journalists in Russia.
Politkovskaya gained recognition for her reporting on human rights violations during Putin’s early presidency, specifically in the war in Chechnya. Despite facing threats and being detained, she received numerous accolades for her work.
Said stated that she was frequently the sole individual with whom community members could communicate, express their complaints, and feel listened to.
Vera and Ilya, the two children of Politkovskaya, along with Novaya Gazeta, released a joint statement expressing their lack of notification regarding Khadzhikurbanov’s pardon.
“We do not see this ‘pardon’ as proof of the killer’s remorse and efforts towards redemption. Instead, it is a heinous act of injustice… A disregard for the memory of the individual who was killed for her beliefs and dedication to her profession,” the statement expressed.
According to Mikhalchik, a lawyer, Khadzhikurbanov participated in a transaction proposed by the Russian defense ministry and the Wagner private military group last year. This deal allows Russian prisoners to resume their normal lives without completing their sentences if they can survive six months of fighting in the ongoing conflict in Ukraine.
In 2014, Khadzhikurbanov was imprisoned along with four others for the murder of Politkovskaya. However, the individual responsible for ordering the murder was not identified by investigators at that time.
In 2018, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that while the men directly involved in the killing were convicted, the authorities did not take sufficient investigative measures to identify the person or persons responsible for ordering the murder.
The embassy of Russia in Washington did not respond immediately to VOA’s email asking for a comment.
Politkovskaya, who was 48 years old when she was killed, is among at least six Novaya Gazeta reporters and contributors who have been killed since 2000.
In the autumn edition of the CPJ’s magazine “Dangerous Assignments,” the organization for press freedom recognized Politkovskaya as one of the most significant figures for press freedom in the last 25 years.
Prior to her murder, Politkovskaya expressed her disappointment with the deteriorating state of press freedom in Chechnya during a correspondence with CPJ. She referenced the tragic Beslan hostage crisis in 2004 as evidence.
She informed CPJ that there is a lot more to discuss regarding Beslan, but it becomes increasingly challenging when all the reporters are forced to depart.