Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images(NEW YORK) — Friday is Vladimir Putin’s 64th birthday. The Russian president intends to celebrate it at home with friends and family, the Kremlin said.
But Friday also marks another anniversary — 10 years since Russian investigative journalist Anna Politkovskaya was shot dead in her apartment building stairwell in a brutal killing that became a symbol of the stifling of the free press in Russia under Putin.
The murder, one of modern Russia’s most notorious political assassinations, stalks Putin’s birthday every year.
After years of the investigation dragging along, the men who fired the shots were jailed in 2014. However, the family and supporters of Politkovskaya and many observers say others organized the killing and that they have never been found, a decade on.
Politkovskaya’s colleagues at the investigative paper Novaya Gazeta and some ordinary citizens gathered outside the publication’s offices in central Moscow to honor the slain journalist and call for those who may have ordered her death to be found.
“In 10 years, we haven’t moved an iota toward finding the people who ordered the crime,” Politkovskaya’s son, Ilya told Radio Free Europe at the commemoration event.
Politkovskaya was renowned as a fearless critic of alleged abuses of power by leaders in both Russia and the war-torn republic of Chechnya and for her relentless coverage of alleged crimes by Russian security forces in Chechnya.
On Oct. 7, 2006, the 48 year-old was followed into her Moscow apartment building and shot five times.
Eight years later, five men were convicted of murdering her, with the man who fired the fatal shots, Rustam Makhmudov, sentenced to life imprisonment.
“Justice has not been done,” Sergei Sokolov, Novaya Gazeta’s deputy editor told Agence France-Presse. “Yes, those who killed her are in prison, but not their boss, nor the boss of their boss.”
Politkovskaya’s former colleagues believe all signs point toward the killing being linked to Chechnya, where Politkovskaya covered abuses by the republic’s rulers, including militias connected to its president, Ramzan Kadyrov.
Others speculate that the Kremlin was involved.
Parallels with the assassination were noted last year with the shooting death of Russian opposition politician Boris Nemtsov in front of the Kremlin. As with Politkovskaya, the alleged hitmen who shot Nemtsov have been apprehended but with no obvious attempt to find who may have ordered the killing.
The United States State Department today issued a statement calling on “the Russian government to bring to justice those responsible for ordering, planning and executing Ms. Politkovskaya’s murder.”
“Like many other journalists reporting on the North Caucasus over the past two decades, Ms. Politkovskaya was killed in retaliation for her efforts to uncover corruption, abuse, and violations of human rights,” the statement said. “Ongoing impunity for these unsolved murders continues to undermine freedom of speech and respect for justice and human rights in Russia.”
One of Politkovskaya’s colleagues, Yelena Milashina, who has continued to investigate state crimes in Chechnya, wrote on her Facebook page today: “You can kill one journalist. You can kill several journalists. But you can’t kill them all. That’s the law of Politkovskaya.”
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