Skip to comments.Remember Politkovskaya the Brave
Posted on 10/06/2011 5:14:06 PM PDT by struwwelpeter
On the anniversary of the death of my colleague Anna Politkovskaya, I suddenly discovered that I had forgotten whether or not they ever caught her killers
I only remember the pompous, yet bungled goings on. There were the prosecutors, rushing to calm a hysterical West (We found them! We found the evil doers and now well put them away!), as well as the lawyers juggling myriads of dissonant theories all covered with unpronounceable Chechen surnames. Oh yes, I remember how, in the end, the jury decided that it was not the guilty who had been arrested, and how the public spat and headed home, grumbling: Serves 'em right, they cant do anything right! Even when they really try they just cant get it right, and thats that!
Once again investigators are dragging the very same suspects into court, and probably with the same half-grief as last time they will try to put them away. It is possible that whoever ordered them to do this crime will be introduced to the public and they will turn out to be some shadowy Chechen criminal figures who, of course, for no reason whatsoever suddenly decided to kill a Moscow journalist. Very few people, of course, will buy it... but I am thinking about something else.
I almost forgot about Politkovskaya, but certainly not out of indifference, since in the end we all run the risk of suffering because of our investigative reporting. It is just that in the five years following Annas death, Russia has gotten even worse. There is now, inside the country, this sleepy atmosphere of infinite and absolute hopelessness, of going around in circles like in that Hollywood movie Groundhog Day. Now we see the same pathetically inept fuss that surrounded the Politkovskaya case reflected on the news feeds every single day: the Investigation Committee tries to lock up some Moscow district prosecutors, but cannot, they try to investigate the Magnitsky case, but it turns out it would have been better not to bother! They are looking for some high-ranking people who ordered the killing of Chechen human rights activist Natalia Estemirova and the attack on Oleg Kashin, but they are not getting anywhere. They arrest Investigator Dmitreyeva on charges of taking bribes, but the prosecutor asks for her release.
Out of habit, knowing it to be an inexorable given that Russias law enforcement and judicial systems are a shambles and not that schizophrenic March Hare's rabbit hole, we yawn and turn the newspaper page, thinking: What idiots!
Back then, five years ago, I somehow hoped that Politkovskayas death might at least shake up the country a bit and make the authorities think about what the hell is going on, but now the only thing that remains is to remember the brave Politkovskaya, and wish my colleagues but one thing - to not be afraid.
Russia’s law enforcement is being shorn of its Soviet roots but the courts still remain in shambles. “Telephone law” is still a common practice in Russia despite constitutional guarantees of judicial independence, especially in politically sensitive cases.
True organizer of Politkovskayas murder has been apprehended
He is a former colonel
Today it came to our attention that retired police lieutenant colonel Dmitry Pavlyuchenkov has been detained in the murder investigation of Novaya Gazeta journalist Anna Politkovskaya. Pavlyuchenkov is the former chief of department 4 of the Operational Search Directorate for the Interior Ministry in the city of Moscow.
According to sources in law enforcement, we know that he is to be charged with the October 7th, 2006, murder. According to the information available to Novaya Gazeta, Dmitry Pavlyuchenkov is suspected of accepting the contract for the murder of Anna Politkovskaya while he was still an active officer of a secret police unit. In connection with this, he formed a criminal group that assigned tasks among its members, organized illegal surveillance of the journalist, and equipped the assigned killer with a pistol and silencer.
Investigating authorities recently went to court seeking the arrest of Dmitry Pavlyuchenkov. He is now in a detention center in Moscow.
Pavlyuchenkovs name came up during the first trial for the murder of Anna Politkovskaya. Recall that back then in the dock before the Moscow military district court was a former anti-organized crime police unit officer by the name of Sergei Khadzhikurbanov, as well as Gabriel and Ibrahim Makhmudov, who, according to investigators, followed the journalist and brought the killer a ride to the scene. The investigators named Rustam Makhmudov as the murderer. He was for a long time on the federal wanted list and living under an assumed name, but was arrested this year during a special operation in Chechnya. Interestingly enough, serving as the prosecutions secret witness during the first murder trial was Dmitry Pavlyuchenkov.
Novaya Gazeta discovered that Pavlyuchenkov at the time attempted to confuse investigators about his involvement in the murder. He tried to be useful as a valuable source of information, and stated that he only found out about the crime from the defendants. It was due to Pavlyuchenkovs testimony that a criminal case was initiated against Sergei Khadzhikurbanov, his former friend. Pavlyuchenkov accused him of extorting large sums of money, and that criminal case ended in a conviction. Perhaps the extortion was related to the murder?
Suspicions about the witness being involved in the murder of Anna Politkovskaya arose immediately, but at the time there was no substantial evidence. Today it has become known to Novaya Gazeta that investigators have sufficient evidence to incriminate Pavlyuchenkov, including some that was obtained with the help of Novaya Gazeta journalists who performed their own journalistic investigation, as well as from lawyers for the victims family.
We were unable to receive any official comment or confirmation on the detention of Dmitry Pavlyuchenkov from members of the investigative group. Officers from the Russian Investigative Committee declined due to the secrecy of the ongoing investigation.
In Novaya Gazeta
Anna Politkovskaya - This is the bitter taste of freedom
Marina Goldovskaya has completed a film about the life of the journalist and human rights advocate.
Documentary filmmaker Marina Goldovskaya has completed the picture "A bitter taste of freedom". It is a documentary about Anna Politkovskaya, gathering together a lot of unique material on this person. The film author knew Anna very well, was friends with her and her family, and filmed the documentary in a variety of situations, so it is very personal and dramatic. The new feature film, a co-production between the US and Sweden, will soon be shown in Los Angeles and New York. The International Association of Documentary Films has nominated for the picture for an Oscar, or, more precisely, at this stage it was nominated for the right to be selected among the lists of nominees.
Marina Goldovskaya is a well-known documentary filmmaker, playwright and producer, living in the United States for a long time. She teaches at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) film school. She is the author of more than forty films, including "The Solovetsky Government," "Archangel Man," "The Prince has returned," "House of Knights", "Shards of the Mirror", and "Anatoly Rybakov: Epilogue." She also has written six books, including one published in the U.S. in 2006: "Woman with a Movie Camera." On Friday, July 15th, Marina Yevseevna Goldovskaya turned 70.
"Voice of America's" Russia correspondent Oleg Sulkin spoke with Marina Goldovskaya.
Oleg Sulkin: Congratulations on your jubilee anniversary. How do you feel about it?
Marina Goldovskaya: My attitude at this time is not to take it too seriously and not to over-dramatize the situation. All of this is inevitable, and so I will continue to do what I am doing.
OS: How did it happen that you for so many years were filming Anna Politkovskaya?
MG: It was almost an accident. She was the wife of a former student, Alexander Politkovskaya. I used to teach at the Moscow University College of Journalism, and they were students. In 1991 I filmed the picture "A Taste of Freedom" about what would happen in the Soviet Union by 2000. So I decided to show the change occurring in one family. And I chose Sasha Politkovsky's family, with whom I had a good relationship. At the time he was working for the newspaper "The View" and was riding on the crest of fame. He and Anya agreed, and I all but moved in with them in their apartment for six weeks, a small apartment on Herzen Street. During this time I literally fell in love with Anya - she was much more interesting than I had imagined. She was smart, beautiful, charming, and had a romantic character, and was subtle and deeply sensitive. For her student paper she wrote about (the poet) Marina Tsvetaeva. So the picture turned out not to be a picture about Sasha and his family, but a picture about Anya and her family. OS: Then you filmed her in connection with great events in the life of the nation. Was this piece for a future movie about it (the nation)?
MG: No, not about it. In my new film there is this phrase: the Motherland is not the place where you were born, but the time in which you live. In late February of 1990 a huge rally was held in Moscow for the abolition of the sixth article of the Constitution (supremacy of the state and the communist party over the rights of citizens). I filmed it from a sixth-floor balcony and was moved to tears. There was such an expression of the universal human spirit! People held hands and sang songs. I was using film, but at that time I decided to buy a video camera and shoot everything that was going on back then.
OS: You filmed it for future use?
MG: Exactly. The nation was at a time of fracture. I had no formal interviews, only informal conversations with various people, including, and especially, with Anya. By that time I was living in Los Angeles, but every summer I came to Russia. The first person I would call was Anya, and we were sure to get together. We talked about everything, and I filmed it. I was literally drawn to her, but at the time she had not yet become a famous journalist, and I could not even imagine what she would become. At the time she was devoting herself entirely to her two young children.
OS: What is the fate of that film, "A Taste of Freedom"?
MG: I put a picture together and showed it to Sasha and Anya, to get their permission. Anya said to me, "Marina Yevseevna, let's not show it." I understood everything and so I did not insist. They were close to a divorce, and for the first time were openly talking about it on camera. Sasha was at that time a deputy in the Russian parliament. In general, it just was not time to release the film, so it never came out in Russia, only abroad. Later during our relationship there was a long break of eight or nine years. I knew that Anya and Sasha had parting ways, and that he had started drinking and I knew how hard it was on her because she loved him very much. When I met her again, she had been working as a reporter covering the war in Chechnya.
OS: That amazing episode in the Moscow hospital, after she was allegedly poisoned during a plane stop on her way to Beslan. Anna is laying in bed and it as if she is making a confession...
MG: By 2004, we had been friends for 14 years. On that day I heard on "Echo Moskvy" that Anya was in the hospital. Her children gave me an address, and by nine in the morning I was already there. She was pale and very weak, and we talked.
OS: And all those years a lot of footage about Anna, you had this material just sitting there...
MG: Not only materials about her. I now have somewhere around three thousand hours of filmed chronicles. No, not chronicles - just life, the lives of ordinary people, and rich people, street scenes in Moscow and in the countryside, conversations with various people. Since 1990 I have made fifteen pictures, and each time I have used these materials.
OS: When they killed Anna, did you suddenly decide to do a movie about her? And if so, why did it take so long, five years?
MG: That day I was in LA and listening to Russian radio. When they reported Anna Politkovskaya was murdered in Moscow, I was thunderstruck. I completely shut down. By evening, we had gotten through to her children, Ilya and Vera, and they asked: "Marina Yevseevna, will you make a picture about Mother?" I started working on the film after a year - I could not do it before this, it was as if the blood was still fresh. I arrived in Moscow and began to film, but then my husband fell ill... And during this time several films came out about Anya.
About a year ago I realized: Well, so what if they have made a lot of pictures? They have not made the one I would have wanted. None of them, and there were various films, good, great, and not so great, there was never that same Anya who remained in my film. So in March of last year I went to Moscow, finished filming Mikhail Sergeevich Gorbachev - I am very grateful to him - and Yevgeny Albats, Alexei Venediktov, Karinna Moskalenko, Dmitry Bykov, Alla Bossart, and Anya's children.
OS: In your film there is footage of Anna Politkovskaya interspersed with episodes from Russian national tragedies - the Chechen war, "Nord-Ost", Beslan. What guided you during the assembly of the picture - was the idea to capture her character against the background of great stories?
MG: I made a picture about an amazing person. The tongue seeks lofty words, but she needs to be spoken of somewhat simpler. She was talented in everything, and in how she described things, but the picture is not only about her, but also about the times. The structure of the film is as if she just "exhaled" it.
OS: Not all of your interlocutors speak well of Anna...
MG: For me at one time it was a revelation that many people - and not necessarily those whom she exposed - treated her disrespectfully and with hostility. The films about her somehow hush this up. She was a very complex person. She was an obsessed, uncompromising, and passionate woman.
OS: What guided you when choosing the people to talk about Anna? After all, there could have been three or four times more.
MG: There were and three times more, but there just was not enough screen time. (No room for) Irina Petrovskaya, Yasen Zasursky, college friends of Sasha and Anya. It is a shame.
OS: Would you care to include these unused materials in the bonus section on the DVD?
MG: Maybe. I still have not thought about it.
DC: Why you did not touch on the circumstances of her murder and the investigation?
MG: All the pictures made about Anya to some degree or another are concerned with this. I will tell you something strange: I do not care who killed her. Whether or not the killers are found, she is no more and never will be again. This is the worst thing, and either way, the investigation is not going anywhere.
OS: How is it not going anywhere? After all, it seems that they found the killer.
MG: That is all nonsense. The search for the truth will go on for a very long time, and so I should leave this picture hanging? I did not do a picture about a murder investigation, but about the life of a remarkable person, and also how hard it is for a nation to live without the moral authority of its leading personalities. Now there remain zero people such as this. I think Anna was one such moral authority. When Alla Bossart said that Anna was like Mother Theresa, I then clearly realized why I was doing to picture.
OS: A piazza in Italy bears her name, and there is a street in the nation of Georgia, so it might at least be nice if they would hang a plaque on her home in Moscow. It is not very likely that her moral authority will be recognized in Russia by the government and the public.
MG: Perhaps something will happen after the showing of my film?
OS: Do you think it will be shown in Russia?
MG: I am almost certain. In November I look forward to its premiere in Moscow. I am almost even afraid to believe it is true.
On "Voice of America", Friday July 15th, 2011
Thank you for this thread.