Sergei Khadzhikurbanov, the orchestrator of journalist Anna Politkovskaya's murder, has been granted early release from prison, where he was serving the tenth year of his 20-year sentence, after taking part in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Officially, Khadzhikurbanov was not due to be released until 2034. The journalist's children Vera Politkovskaya, Ilya Politkovsky and the editorial board of Novaya Gazeta, her former employer, issued a joint statement after the news of Khadzhikurbanov’s release went public.
The Insider quotes the translated statement in full.
“One of the organizers of the murder of Novaya Gazeta columnist and our mother Anna Politkovskaya was pardoned and rose to the rank of officer in the war zone [in Ukraine].
Sergei Khadzhikurbanov was convicted by a jury for 20 years. But he was released last year, as reported by his lawyer Alexei Mikhalchik and journalists at [Telegram channel] Baza, without having served even half of his sentence.
Neither the victims nor the editorial staff were informed about the murderer’s pardon. As they haven’t informed [us] about how they’re looking for the other killers — most importantly, the customer. Because they are not looking for them. Because they are being covered up.
Based on some ‘rational’ needs that have nothing to do with conscience and justice — just as they have nothing to do with decisions to pardon the killers.
They [the authorities] will say: everything is according to the law, no one should have been notified, it’s a legal procedure, and so on.
To this we reply: there's no need to seek refuge behind a legal system where judges' gavels have turned into instruments of torture, creating holes in the very fabric of the law. The state no longer upholds the law; rather, it manipulates the law for its own twisted purposes. [The Russian state] hands down 25 years [in prison] for one’s beliefs and pardons murderers who are in demand by the government.
For us, this ‘pardon’ is not evidence of the murderer’s redemption of guilt and remorse. It is a monstrous fact of injustice and lawlessness, an insult to the memory of a person killed for her beliefs and fulfilment of her professional duty.
We will remind you who the pardoned Khadzhikurbanov is.
He was a former captain of the Moscow RUBOP [Regional Anti-Organized Crime Directorate], the police department for fighting organized crime, who received his first sentence for the ‘abuse of power’ — as it is mildly called when law enforcement officers commit crimes.
He served his sentence in the Ryazan Region, in a [penal] colony for former police officers, which didn’t prevent him from regularly appearing in Moscow and socializing with his colleagues and gangsters from a criminal group engaged in contract killings, illegal surveillance, and apartment fraud involving the kidnapping of homeowners.
When he was arrested on suspicion of organizing the murder of Anna Politkovskaya, he was also charged with kidnapping and causing harm to the kidnapped person's health (i.e. torture).
He didn’t cooperate with the investigation, didn’t testify, and didn’t admit guilt.
There is nothing to comment on. There is no one to demand [justice] from. Seeking justice is pointless — [justice] has been thrown in solitary confinement for discrediting the authorities.
And the killers will do what they used to do, mocking the victims, their relatives and friends, witnesses, the court, the law and the state, which turned out to be so weak that it turned to them for help and leniency.
This is what will remain in history.”
Anna Politkovskaya, a Russian journalist and human rights activist, was assassinated in the entrance of her Moscow apartment building on October 7, 2006. Six individuals were sentenced to lengthy prison terms for their roles in her murder, ranging from 11 years to life.
Life sentences were handed to Chechen gangster Lom-Ali Gaitukaev, convicted for organizing the killing, and his nephew Rustam Makhmudov. Gaitukaev passed away in prison in June 2017. Three others, including Sergei Khadzhikurbanov, who served as middlemen in orchestrating the crime, received sentences ranging from 14 to 20 years in prison.
In October 2021, the statute of limitations on Politkovskaya's murder expired, with the individuals who commissioned the killing remaining unidentified. Fifteen years had passed since the murder — according to Russian law, after that period, individuals involved in a particularly serious crime are no longer liable for prosecution.
In July 2018, the European Court of Human Rights acknowledged that the investigation into Anna Politkovskaya's murder “failed to look properly into who commissioned the crime” and granted her relatives compensation of 20,000 euros.