Statement by Novaya Gazeta on the progress of the Politkovskaya and Shchekochikhin murder investigations

16 January 2013

Source: (info)

“Over the past couple of days the Investigative Committee of Russia (ICR) has time and again given public accounts of the progress of the investigation into the murder of the Novaya Gazeta journalists. However, we have some questions, as they say in court, on the investigation’s merits. 

Over the past couple of days the ICR has time and again given public accounts of the progress of the investigation into the murder of the Novaya Gazeta journalists. And we are sincerely grateful to the investigators Petros Garibyan and Sergei Golkin, who are leading the Politkovskaya and Shchekochikhin cases, as well as the head of the ICR Alexander Bastrykin, who in 2008 took the decision to launch a criminal investigation into the mysterious death of Member of the State Duma and Deputy Editor-in-Chief at our newspaper Yury Petrovich Shchekochikhin. We had failed to achieve that result from the prosecutor general for a whole five years. 

However, we have some questions, as they say in court, on the investigation’s merits. 

On Monday 14th January, the official representative of the ICR, Vladimir Markin, announced that the investigation into the Anna Politkovskaya case was within touching distance of the mastermind behind the murder, and that the version ridiculed the world over about Akhmed Zakaev and Boris Berezovsky’s involvement in the case has proven to be untrue. 

It is true that Anna’s children and their lawyers still know nothing about the new suspects, but back in 2008, when the first trial of the Novaya Gazeta columnist’s killers was just beginning, it was obvious that Berezovsky and Zakaev had nothing to do with it, and that this version of events was deeply politicised, thrown into the public sphere as propaganda and, most likely, arising from a desire to appease the Russian leadership. 

This appeasement has come at a high cost. The investigators and detectives were forced to drag out this fatuous version of events to the bitter end, questioning stooges and political adventurists of various types, sending out hundreds of inquiries around the world, and in the process being sidetracked from searching for the real culprit. 

Moreover, the ‘Berezovsky trail’ was being talked about as recently as one month ago. The organiser of the murder, Lieutenant Colonel Pavliuchenkov, mentioned it when brokering the plea bargain with the investigation. Anna Politkovskaya’s children demanded that the Investigative Committee, the Prosecutor General and the court overturn this deal, since Pavliuchenkov was intentionally leading the investigation astray, and at the same time was not fulfilling the responsibilities he had agreed to. Their request was refused. Now it is apparent that Berezovsky and Zakaev really did have no connection to the murder. So why was the deal struck? 

There is only one logical way out of this situation. The public prosecution at the Supreme Court, where Anna’s children will appeal against the sentence handed down for the murder of their mother, should annul the deal. The sentence must be quashed, and Pavliuchenkov should be placed in the dock along with the other suspects. 

Whilst perhaps not a victory for justice, this would at least be a victory for logic. 

It would also be welcome if logic could triumph in the Shchekochikhin case

On 15th January, the official representative of the ICR Vladimir Markin outlined the philosophical principle of the unity and struggle of opposites in a statement. On the one hand, French experts will carry out a forensic toxicological report. On the other hand, “a criminal motive can already be ruled out”. 

You can’t have it both ways. Either you confirm that it wasn’t murder, or you await the results of the report. 

In actual fact, it was Novaya Gazeta and Yury Shchekochikhin’s friends who found the leading European toxicologists and asked them to carry out an investigation. It was the investigative committee that gave it the go-ahead (and they deserve many thanks for doing so). 

The first analysis of medical documents carried out by the foreign specialists elicited some bloodcurdling revelations. It emerged that basic tests immediately following Shchekochikhin’s death that would have allowed the true cause of death to be ascertained were not carried out. It turned out that all subsequent assessments were done in a very primitive fashion. In addition, the Russian experts were led astray - for some reason it was entered in the medical documents that Yury Shchekochikhin was a WW2 veteran, and that he has helped to contain the fire at Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant. And when you also take into account that the most crucial medical documents were misplaced by the investigation (!) back in 2003, and that eight years have already passed since his death, for five of which nobody wanted to examine or investigate anything, you can see how difficult a task the European specialists now face. 

So both the Anna Politkovskaya case and the Yury Shchekochikhin case are still as clear as mud. Both the investigators and Novaya Gazeta must continue to work to uncover the truth. 

But since so much attention has been focused on our deceased colleagues at the newspaper in recent days, perhaps today or tomorrow we will hear something about the progress of the investigation into the case of Igor Domnikov, killed with a hammer in 2000? In that case things are much simpler: the killers are already behind bars, and the middleman and mastermind have long been known to the investigation, and have even been questioned. But for some reason they are still at large.” 

Source: Novaya Gazeta