Russian Journalist’s Convicted Killer Freed in Controversial Exchange for Service in Ukraine Invasion
In a shocking move that has drawn widespread condemnation, the convicted murderer of renowned Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya has been set free in exchange for serving in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Sergei Khadzhikurbanov, who was sentenced to 20 years in prison for his involvement in Politkovskaya’s murder, has been pardoned by President Vladimir Putin after joining the Russian army as a contracted fighter in Ukraine.
Anna Politkovskaya, a prominent investigative journalist and political commentator, was found shot dead in the elevator of her Moscow apartment building in October 2006. She had gained international recognition for her critical reports on human rights abuses in Chechnya, exposing the actions of both local authorities and independent groups. Her untimely death sparked outrage and led to her posthumous recognition as a World Press Freedom Hero by the International Press Institute (IPI).
The release of Khadzhikurbanov, who had been serving his sentence for Politkovskaya’s murder, has sparked outrage and condemnation from IPI and various human rights organizations. Scott Griffen, Deputy Director of IPI, strongly condemned Russia’s decision, stating that it is a reprehensible perversion of justice. Griffen emphasized that instead of serving his punishment for the murder, Khadzhikurbanov is now contributing to Russia’s illegal war in Ukraine, further exacerbating the injustice.
The two children of Anna Politkovskaya, Vera and Ilya, expressed their shock and disappointment at the news of Khadzhikurbanov’s release. In a joint statement with Novaya Gazeta, the newspaper Politkovskaya worked for, the children stated that they were not informed about the pardon. They believe that this so-called pardon does not demonstrate any atonement or repentance on the part of the killer, but rather stands as a monstrous act of injustice and a desecration of their mother’s memory.
It is worth noting that Khadzhikurbanov was one of six individuals sentenced for Politkovskaya’s murder, while the gunman, Rustam Makhmudov, received a life sentence. However, the mastermind behind the killing has yet to be identified, as investigators have been unable to determine who ordered the assassination. This lack of accountability has been criticized by human rights organizations, including the European Court of Human Rights, which stated in 2018 that Russian authorities had failed to adequately investigate and prosecute the individuals responsible for commissioning the murder.
The IPI has reiterated its call for a thorough investigation into Anna Politkovskaya’s murder, urging authorities to identify and prosecute all those involved in the crime, particularly those responsible for planning and ordering it. The shocking release of Khadzhikurbanov has only intensified the need for justice in this high-profile case.
The freeing of Politkovskaya’s convicted killer in exchange for his service in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has sparked international outrage and raised serious concerns about the perversion of justice. Supporters of press freedom and human rights will continue to demand a thorough investigation into Politkovskaya’s murder and the prosecution of all individuals involved, including those responsible for masterminding the crime.