Anna Politkovskaya, murdered Kremlin critic, was a veteran journalist | ET REALITY


Anna Politkovskaya was one of Russia’s most acclaimed journalists and an outspoken critic of the Kremlin. Her murder in 2006 sent shockwaves not only in Russia but around the world, highlighting the growing dangers of reporting critically about the Kremlin in the country.

Outrage and intrigue around the case have persisted in the years since, then increased again on Tuesday after President Vladimir V. Putin made it known that he had pardoned a man convicted of organizing the murder.

Best known for her scathing criticism of Mr. Putin and his policies in the Russian republic of Chechnya, Ms. Politkovskaya gained international recognition during her lifetime and has been celebrated as a pillar of press freedom in the years since his death.

Politkovskaya was shot dead in her Moscow apartment building on October 7 (Putin’s birthday) 2006. She was 48 years old and had two adult children.

The question of who was behind his death has long been the subject of international attention. Her colleagues, friends and international press freedom groups have said she was killed to silence her or in retaliation for previous articles. They also say they suspect the Russian government was involved in her death.

While a court convicted several men of carrying out the murder, authorities left unanswered the question of who organized it. Putin, speaking shortly after Politkovskaya’s death, denied any involvement. International criticism of the murder, he argued, had created a bigger problem for Russia than her work as an investigative journalist. Suspicion also focused on Ramzan A. Kadyrov, the bellicose leader of Chechnya, a territory in the Caucasus that fought two wars with Russia but is now ruled by a Kremlin loyalist. Kadyrov was the target of some of the most critical reporting of him.

Politkovskaya was a veteran journalist with few equals in Russia. As a special correspondent for Novaya Gazeta, the internationally renowned independent newspaper, she had become one of the country’s most prominent human rights defenders and critics of Putin, whom she accused of stifling civil society and enabling a climate of corruption and official brutality.

After earn a degree in journalism Graduated from Moscow State University in 1980 and working for several specialized newspapers, Politkovskaya landed at Novaya Gazeta in 1999. That’s where she made a name for herself covering the Second Chechen War, a brutal conflict that pitted separatists against Kremlin forces. , as well as the terrorist attacks that spilled over into the war in Moscow and other Russian cities.

Ms. Politkovskaya investigated allegations of abuses on all sides of the war, and her unvarnished accounts of official brutality and crime in Chechnya drew criticism from powerful people in the Russian military and government circles who considered the descriptions of acts of savagery committed by the authorities of their country. soldiers as “unpatriotic.”

Ms. Politkovskaya wrote about torture, mass executions and kidnappings. and the sale by Russian soldiers of Chechen corpses to their families for proper Islamic burial.

As the Russian media came under increasing pressure from Putin’s government, Politkovskaya remained defiant, speaking often abroad about a war she called “state terrorism versus group terrorism.” .

A target of intimidation, Ms. Politkovskaya received death threats and at least once left Russia, fearing for her safety. In 2004, Politkovskaya said that she had been poisoned while she was on a plane; she fainted on the flight but survived.

Her murder two years later shocked many in Russia, not only because of the brutality with which it was carried out but also because Politkovskaya’s public stature seemed to give her an aura of invincibility. Her death had a chilling effect on Russian press freedom, which has severely contracted in the years since.

The effects of Ms Politkovskaya’s reporting and her death are still felt many years later, inspiring plays, films and awards in the journalist’s name.

Press freedom advocates and international officials continue to mark the anniversary of her assassination, and in 2021 the State Department will commemorate “Ms. Politkovskaya’s brave work to expose human rights abuses” and say that “Continuous impunity” for those who ordered the murder undermines freedom of expression in Russia.

She was one of at least six Novaya Gazeta journalists killed since 2000. Her editor, Dmitri A. Muratov, and Maria Ressa, a journalist from the Philippines, received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2021 for their “brave fight for freedom of expression.” . “

Politkovskaya’s desk at the now-closed newspaper remained untouched for 17 years: with her typewriter, glasses, notes and a book, whose title seemed to sum up the impunity of the Putin era: “History of an Unfinished Investigation.”

Neil MacFarquhar and CJ Chivers contributed with reports.

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