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Chechen man convicted in Politkovskaya assassination pardoned after fighting in Ukraine

15 November 2023
Sergei Khadzhikurbanov. Image: RIA Novosti.

A former Chechen police officer convicted in 2014 for his alleged role in the murder of journalist Anna Politkovskaya has reportedly been pardoned in exchange for serving in Ukraine.

Sergei Khadzhikurbanov was pardoned after serving as a prisoner in the Russian armed forces, after which he signed a contract to continue serving voluntarily in the war, his lawyer, Alexey Mikhalchik told RBC.

‘I believe that, in a sense, justice has triumphed since I believe that he was not involved in the murder of Anna Politkovskaya’, Mikhalchik said.

Baza, a news Telegram channel, reported that Khadzhikurbanov was sent to fight in Ukraine at the end of 2022 and was immediately given a command position.

‘Six months later, he received a certificate of release but extended his contract with the Ministry of Defence and remained in the war. His current position and rank are unknown’, wrote Baza.

Convicts have served in the war in Ukraine as part of an initiative to recruit prisoners spearheaded by the late Yevgeniy Prigozhin, the leader of the Wagner private military company. Russia’s Defence Ministry later directly recruited convicts in exchange for their freedom.

[Read more on OC Media: Wagner’s North Caucasian mercenaries fail to wash away their sins with Ukrainian blood]

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Khadzhikurbanov was sentenced to 20 years in prison for his alleged involvement in the murder of Politkovskaya, a prominent Russian journalist who covered Chechnya and the North Caucasus.

On 14 November, Novaya Gazeta, the Russian newspaper where Politkovskaya wrote, published a statement by her children, Vera and Ilya Politkovsky.

‘For us, this “pardon” is not evidence of atonement and repentance of the killer. This is a monstrous fact of injustice and arbitrariness, an outrage against the memory of a man killed for his convictions and the performance of his professional duty’, read the statement.

Politkovskaya was shot dead in the elevator of her apartment building in 2006. Six people accused of being involved in her killing received sentences ranging from 11 years to life imprisonment.

Khadzhikurbanov and two other Chechen men, Ibragim and Dzhabrail Makhmudov, were tried as accomplices to her murder.

Politkovskaya’s colleague at Novaya Gazeta have accused Chechnya’s Head, Ramzan Kadyrov, of being involved in her murder; the journalist has previously interviewed Kadyrov and covered human rights abuses committed in Chechnya during his and his father, Akhmat Kadyrov’s, rule of the republic.

Putin’s press secretary, Dmitry Peskov, commented on the pardon by noting that there were  ‘no exceptions’.

‘There is a certain practice that is being implemented, and as far as I know, in this practice, there are no exceptions. More precisely, there are exceptions, but they do not relate to the topic of the resonance of this or that case’, Peskov said.