Anna Politkovskaya would have been fifty-four years old today. A courageous Russian investigative journalist, she covered the second war in Chechnya during Putin’s first presidency with a sharp pen and steel nerves.
The articles and books she authored were very critical of Putin and the ill-prepared and ill-equipped Russian military. Politkovskaya was not afraid of speaking out against her government and documented torture, mass executions, and openly characterized Russia’s involvement in Chechnya as “state versus group terrorism.”
Always objective, Politkovskaya gave no better treatment to the warlords who controlled Chechnya. She was extremely critical of the Islamic extremists who used the war to further their agendas with no concern for the people of Chechnya or their needs.
Because of her hard work, unwavering courage, and brutal honesty stemming from her belief in a “duty to tell”, Politkovskaya was often in danger and received death threats from Russia and Chechnya throughout the war.
Unfortunately, however, Politkovskaya’s life came to a tragic and premature end on October 7, 2006, when she was found dead in an elevator outside of her Moscow apartment. She had been shot once in the head and once in the body. The pistol used in the shooting had been left by her corpse, a clear sign of a contract killing. Chillingly coincidental was the fact that her murder occurred on Vladimir Putin’s birthday.
The investigation that followed her murder has been ongoing since 2006. Recently, in fact, a former Moscow policeman admitted involvement in the killing, although it remains a mystery as to who called for her death. In time, perhaps, the circumstances surrounding her death will be revealed.
So, today, on her birthday, let us remember Anna Politkovskaya and the journalists like her who have – and continue to – risk their lives on a daily basis to report the truth that we read and hear from the safety and comfort of our offices and homes.