A slain Russian journalist’s last story was published Thursday, revealing an unfinished report on torture in Chechnya that some colleagues believe may have motivated her murder.
Anna Politkovskaya’s article described the torture of two terrorism suspects, by the Kremlin-backed Chechen security services. It was accompanied by graphic images of abuse taken from a video apparently shot by the alleged torturers.
Four pictures reproduced in the Novaya Gazeta paper were accompanied by a Russian translation of the culprits’ expletive-filled conversation in Chechen about how hard it was to kill the two young men. The images did not reveal the alleged torturers’ faces.
The photos, which were also reproduced in color on the paper’s Web site, showed the head and torso of a camouflage-clad man lying in a pool of blood, apparently dead, a man’s face covered in rivulets of blood, and apparently the same man’s body slumped over with what the caption described as a knife protruding from his head.
“Are we fighting legally against lawlessness?” Politkovskaya asked in the article. “Or are we thrashing them with our own lawlessness?”
Killed for exposing abuses?
Politkovskaya, 48, was gunned down in her apartment building Saturday. At home and abroad, her slaying drew concern about the risks faced by journalists who criticize Russian authorities and expose abuses. Prosecutors have said she was probably killed because of her journalistic work, but there have been no immediate leads.
Her final story included written testimony from a Chechen who was extradited from Ukraine to a Chechen government office in Grozny, where he said he was tortured into confessing killings he did not commit.
He said he was hung from a pole by his hands and feet and beaten, subjected to electric shock and nearly suffocated with a bag over his head. He confessed before journalists, saying under orders that he had sustained his injuries during an escape attempt.
Politkovskaya told Radio Liberty days before her death that she was working on a story about torture and was serving as a witness in criminal investigations into allegations of torture in Chechnya.
Chechen PM denies involvement in slaying
But some people think her murder could have been connected to any one of her stories focusing on abuses by military and security services, the 2002 Moscow theater siege, the 2004 Beslan school siege, and other sensitive topics. In recent years, she had repeatedly accused Chechen Prime Minister Ramzan Kadyrov’s security forces of abducting, torturing and killing innocent people.
Kadyrov on Wednesday again denied any involvement in her killing.
“I don’t kill women and never have. Women should be loved, for us Chechens a woman is sacred,” he said in comments on NTV television. “I think that those who ordered Anna Politkovskaya’s murder wanted to blacken me.”
First Deputy Prosecutor General Alexander Buksman said Thursday that there had been progress in the investigation into Politkovskaya’s killing, the Interfax news agency reported.
“I have information that deserves attention,” he was quoted as saying, without further elaboration.
Politkovskaya’s colleagues have voiced doubts that the official investigation would lead to results. Most contract murders in Russia have gone unsolved and unpunished.