July 13, 2024

Russian dictator Vladimir Putin pardoned the convicted killer of famed Russian opposition journalist Anna Politkovskaya after his military service in Ukraine, Russian state-controlled media RBC reported on Nov. 14.

Former Russian police officer Sergei Khadzhikurbanov was convicted of his role in Politkovskaya’s murder in 2014 and sentenced to 20 years in prison. He has been imprisoned since then but went to fight in Ukraine as part of the Kremlin’s drive to recruit prisoners.

In 2022, the Russian authorities allowed Wagner Group to recruit prisoners in Russian jails. Russia’s Defense Ministry has also recruited from Russian jails. Under this procedure, they were pardoned in exchange for military service.

The late Wagner Group founder Yevgeny Prigozhin said in June 2023 that as many as 32,000 former prisoners had returned to Russia after fighting in Ukraine.

Khadzhikurbanov’s lawyer did not say when he started to fight in Ukraine or when he received the presidential pardon. Khadzhikurbanov is currently fighting in Ukraine on a contract with Russia’s Defense Ministry, his lawyer said.

Politkovskaya came to prominence in large part because of her coverage of Russia’s brutal wars in the breakaway Russian Republic of Chechnya, specifically related to her coverage of war crimes and human rights abuses. Apart from working for the independent Russian paper Novaya Gazeta, she also wrote several books about Chechnya. Tens of thousands of civilians were killed in the two wars in the early 90s and 2000s.

She was shot and killed in an elevator in her apartment building in Moscow in 2006. Khadzhikurbanov and four others were found guilty of Politkovskaya’s murder, two of whom received life sentences, but it remains unclear exactly who ordered her killing.

Politkovskaya was an outspoken critic of Chechen strongman Ramzan Kadyrov, regularly denouncing his role in human rights abuses in Chechnya. There have been rumors that he, as well as Russian dictator Vladimir Putin, were linked to her death, but no concrete proof.

Read also: Team of liberal economists helps Putin keep his power, wage war in Ukraine

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