Sergei Khadzhikurbanov, a person convicted in the 2006 murder of Russian investigative journalist Anna Politkovskaya, has been awarded a presidential pardon. According to his lawyer, Alexei Mikhalchik, Khadzhikurbanov, who received a 20-year sentence in 2014 for his role in the journalist’s murder, was released last year to join the conflict in Ukraine.
Murder Of Anna Politkovskaya
On October 7, 2006, Anna Politkovskaya, noted for her critical coverage of Kremlin policies, human rights violations, and the Chechen conflict, was shot in the elevator of her Moscow apartment building, causing domestic and worldwide outrage. The Kremlin categorically rejected any political motivations, but her death on President Vladimir Putin’s birthday stoked conjecture.
Four other individuals were also convicted in connection with Politkovskaya’s murder, including the gunman Rustam Makhmudov and his uncle, Lom-Ali Gaitukayev, who received life sentences. Two of Makhmudov’s brothers were sentenced to 12 and 14 years, respectively.
The release of Khadzhikurbanov, a former police detective, has sparked outrage from a variety of sectors. Dmitry Muratov, editor-in-chief of Novaya Gazeta, where Politkovskaya worked, and the journalist’s children, Vera and Ilya, condemned the pardon, calling it a “monstrous act of injustice” that dishonours Politkovskaya’s legacy.
Khadzhikurbanov’s lawyer disclosed that after his release, his client, who served in the “special forces” in the late 1990s and had experience in several conflict zones, was offered a command position in the military. The lawyer expressed relief at Khadzhikurbanov’s release, saying he never suspected his client was implicated in Politkovskaya’s death.
Critics argue that the release sets a disturbing precedent, highlighting a trend where individuals convicted of serious crimes secure their freedom by participating in conflicts such as the one in Ukraine. The lack of prior notification to the victims’ families and concerns about the selective use of pardons by Russian authorities have fueled discontent.
Notably, this case parallels a similar instance in which Vladislav Kanyus was pardoned after doing time in Ukraine for the murder of his former girlfriend Vera Pekhteleva. Human rights activists and critics condemn these activities as symptomatic of a system in which justice appears elusive, swamped by political concerns and a disrespect for victims’ rights.