One of the three men convicted of organising the 2006 murder of Novaya Gazeta journalist Anna Politkovskaya has been given early release from prison to fight in Ukraine, Telegram channel Baza reported on Tuesday.
Sergey Khadzhikurbanov, who had been serving a 20-year sentence, was reportedly deployed to Ukraine as the commander of a Russian reconnaissance group late last year, eventually rising to the rank of battalion commander.
After six months of fighting in occupied Ukraine, he extended his contract with the Russian Defence Ministry, according to Baza, though no further details have emerged. He will not have to serve the remainder of his sentence.
The lead spokesperson for the external affairs of the European Union Peter Stano commented on the news of Khadzhikurbanov being granted early release to fight in the Ukraine war.
“Pardoning of the man convicted of Anna Politkovskaya’s murder to let him participate in illegal war against Ukraine reflects Russia’s state-promoted culture of impunity and encouraging even more violence. The European Union pays again tribute to the memory of the Novaya Gazeta journalist,” he said on X.
In his first trial in 2007, Khadzhikurbanov was acquitted of organising Politkovskaya’s murder but was subsequently rearrested and charged with extorting money from Dmitry Pavlyuchenkov, one of the other men who was convicted, and charged with complicity to murder, though he refused to testify at his trial and maintained his innocence to the end.
Politkovskaya was killed on 7 October 2006 in the entrance of her apartment block in central Moscow. The killer fired four shots at point-blank range, including one to the head.
In 2014, a Moscow court sentenced Rustam Makhmudov and Lom-Ali Gaytukaev to life imprisonment for carrying out and for organising the murder respectively. Khadzhikurbanov and brothers Ibrahim and Dzhabrail Makhmudov were sentenced to 20, 12 and 14 years for their roles in Politkovskaya’s assassination.
In 2018, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that the Russian government “failed to look properly into who commissioned the crime”. The identities of those who ordered the killing have never been conclusively established, although both evidence and circumstance lead back to Chechnya and its leaders.