Russian convicted over journalist’s death wins pardon after serving in Ukraine

14 November 2023, 18:04

Sergei Khadzhikurbanov in court in Moscow, Russia, in May 2014
Russia Politkovskaya Pardon. Picture: PA

Sergei Khadzhikurbanov was sentenced to 20 years in prison in 2014 for his role as an accomplice in the killing of Anna Politkovskaya.

A man convicted over the 2006 killing of Russian investigative journalist Anna Politkovskaya received a presidential pardon after he did a stint fighting in Ukraine, his lawyer has said.

Sergei Khadzhikurbanov was sentenced to 20 years in prison in 2014 for his role as an accomplice in the killing of Ms Politkovskaya, 48.

She worked for the independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta and wrote stories critical of Kremlin policies during the early years of President Vladimir Putin’s term, the war in Chechnya and human rights abuses.

Ms Politkovskaya was shot and killed in the lift of her Moscow apartment block, triggering outrage at home and in the West, and emphasising the dangers faced by independent journalists in Russia.

Her death on October 7, Mr Putin’s birthday, led to suggestions the shooting – in which the Kremlin denied any role – was done to curry favour with the president.

Four others were also convicted over the killing: gunman Rustam Makhmudov and his uncle, Lom-Ali Gaitukayev, who received life in prison, and two of Makhmudov’s brothers, who received 12 and 14 years.

Since Russia invaded Ukraine in 2022, private military contractors and the Defence Ministry have offered prisoners their freedom in exchange for fighting in the war.

Khadzhikurbanov, a former police detective, was released last year to fight in Ukraine and then signed a Defence Ministry contract to continue serving after his pardon, his lawyer Alexei Mikhalchik told The Associated Press (AP).

He was offered a command position in the military because he was in the “special forces” in the late 1990s and was in “almost all the hot spots”, Mr Mikhalchik said.

Dmitry Muratov, editor-in-chief of Novaya Gazeta, and Ms Politkovskaya’s children, Vera and Ilya, condemned Khadzhikurbanov’s release.

“For us, this ‘pardon’ is not evidence of atonement and repentance of the killer. This is a monstrous fact of injustice. … It is an outrage to the memory of a person killed for her beliefs and professional duty,” they said.

Mr Muratov said the “victims in this case – the children of Anna Politkovskaya and the editors” – were not told in advance about the pardon.

They also condemned Russian authorities for using the law “according to its own perverted understanding”, by giving long prison sentences to political opponents while setting murderers free.

Mr Muratov won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2021 but this year was declared by Russian authorities to be a foreign agent, continuing the country’s moves to suppress critics and independent reporting.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said earlier this month that convicts recruited to fight in Ukraine are worthy of pardons.

He said: “Those sentenced, even on grave charges, shed their blood on the battlefield to atone for their crimes.

“They redeem themselves by shedding blood in assault brigades, under bullet fire and shelling.”

Mr Mikhalchik said he was “happy” his client was freed because he never believed he was involved in killing Ms Politkovskaya.

Mr Muratov told the AP that while Khadzhikurbanov “was not the direct perpetrator of the murder of Anna Politkovskaya”, no investigation has taken place to establish who was behind it.

“The person who ordered it is free, and the accomplice to the crime has been pardoned. This is all that can be said about the protection of freedom of speech in Russia,” he said.

Mr Muratov noted it was the second recent example of a prisoner convicted over a killing winning his freedom after serving in Ukraine.

Vera Pekhteleva, 23, was killed in January 2020 by her boyfriend after ending their relationship.

The man convicted over her death, Vladislav Kanyus, was pardoned in April, according to lawyer and human rights advocate Alena Popova.

Ms Pekhteleva’s family discovered Kanyus was free when her mother saw online photos of him wearing camouflage and holding a weapon, Ms Popova said on her Telegram channel.

“There is no justice. There is no law. There are no human rights. Nothing. Just total violence,” Ms Popova told AP in response to the news about the release of Khadzhikurbanov.

By Press Association

Latest World News

See more Latest World News

Nigel Farage said that the West had provoked Putin into invading Ukraine

'We gave Putin an excuse': Nigel Farage says the West provoked Russia into invading Ukraine

Jay Slater Tenerife timeline: Hunt for missing British teen Jay Slater enters fifth day - here's what we know

Tenerife timeline: Hunt for missing British teen Jay Slater enters fifth day as Guardia Civill release search footage

Footage has emerged showing Jay Slater hours before he went missing

Missing Jay Slater seen on video at packed Tenerife rave just hours before he vanished as search enters fourth night

When Putin met Kim: Leaders cement alliance with limo drive, concert and pony stroking outing

When Putin met Kim: Leaders cement alliance with limo drive, concert and pony stroking outing

Farah El Kadhi

Influencer Farah El Kadhi dies aged 36 after 'suffering heart attack on yacht holiday in Malta'

Jay Slater's family have warned people about donating to fake pages

Last person to speak to missing Jay Slater claims he has been kidnapped and ‘something sinister is going on’

Travis Scott

Travis Scott arrested for 'disorderly intoxication and trespassing'

Serbia threatens to quit Euros over Croatia and Albania fans' 'kill the Serbs' chanting - throwing England's group into chaos

Serbia threatens to quit Euros over Croatia and Albania fans' 'kill the Serbs' chants - throwing England's group into chaos

Jay Slater's family have warned people about donating to fake pages

Jay Slater, missing Brit in Tenerife, rang friend to say he'd 'cut his leg on cactus' and 'didn't know where he was'

German police

'Isis terrorist sleeper agent' arrested in Germany near Euro 2024 host city

Here's everything we know about missing teenager Jay Slater.

Everything we know about missing British teenager Jay Slater who vanished on holiday in Tenerife

Jay Slater's family have warned people about donating to fake pages

'I just want my baby back': Mother of missing Brit Jay Slater, 19, issues plea after 'false sighting' delays search

OceanGate co-founder Guillermo Söhnlein is pictured with CEO Stockton Rush, who died on the Titan sub

Oceangate co-founder claims he can 'safely' send 1,000 people to Venus

Justin Timberlake was arrested on Tuesday

'We'll have a lot to say': Justin Timberlake's lawyer vows to 'vigorously defend' singer after DWI arrest

Putin has visited North Korea

Putin and Kim share 'pent-up inmost thoughts' as Russian and North Korean leaders vow to forge 'multi-polar world'

Jay Slater's family have warned people about donating to fake pages

Sick fraudsters create fake GoFundMe page for Brit teenager missing in Tenerife