The Russian newspaper Moskovskiy Komsomolets has published what it claims are photographs of Anna Politkovskaya’s killers. LR’s translator tells her that a forum entry on the website of another Russian newspaper, Yezhedevny Journal, says this:
Forum: How they killed Litvinenko
Posted by: “Korchagin”
Date: 18 Mar 2007
Post Number: 3630
Photographs of the murderers of Anna Politkovskaya, taken from Moskovskiy Komsomolets.
If you know these faces, please contact the police, or better, Novaya Gazeta, which is conducting its own investigation. Gentlemen from the KGB, you can make an anonymous call and receive 25 MILLION RUBLES for full name of just one of the murderers. Payment of the reward is guaranteed by Aleksandr Lebedev, Duma Deputy and part-owner of Novaya Gazeta. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org (address for letters to the Investigations Department, everything concerning compromising information, corruption and criminals). Editor’s telephone: (495) 623-68-88.
The day of the elections to the Duma, the [same] day Putin began his campaign for re-election as president. In the morning he manifested himself at a polling station. He was cheerful, elated even, and a little nervous. This was unusual: as a rule he is sullen. With a broad smile, he informed those assembled that his beloved labrador, Connie, had had puppies during the night. “Vladimir Vladimirovich was so very worried,’ Mme Putina intoned behind her husband. “We are in a hurry to get home,” she added, anxious to return to the bitch whose impeccable timing had presented this gift to the United Russia party.
That morning in Yessentuki, a small resort in the North Caucasus, the first 13 victims of a terrorist train attack were being buried. It had been the morning train, known as the student train, and young people were on their way to college. When, after voting, Putin went over to the journalists, it seemed he would express his condolences. Perhaps even apologise for the fact the government had again failed to protect its citizens. Instead he told them how pleased he was about his labrador’s puppies.
My friends phoned me. “He’s really put his foot in it this time. Russian people are never going to vote for United Russia now.” Around midnight, when the results started coming in, many people were in a state of shock. Russia had mutely surrendered herself to Putin.
Reports we received from the regions show how this was done. Outside one of the polling stations in Saratov, a lady was dispensing free vodka at a table with a banner reading “Vote for Tretiak”, the United Russia candidate. Tretiak won. One opposition candidate twice had plastic bags containing body parts thrown through his window: somebody’s ears and a human heart.
Were we seeing a crisis of Russian parliamentary democracy in the Putin era? No, we were witnessing its death. In the first place, the legislative and executive branches of government had merged and this had meant the rebirth of the Soviet system. The Duma was purely decorative, a forum for rubber-stamping Putin’s decisions.
In the second place the Russian people gave its consent. There were no demonstrations. The electorate agreed to be treated like an idiot. The electorate said let’s go back to the USSR – slightly retouched and slicked up, modernised, but the good old Soviet Union, now with bureaucratic capitalism where the state official is the main oligarch, vastly richer than any capitalist. The corollary was that, if we were going back to the USSR, Putin was going to win in March 2004. It was a foregone conclusion.
Ritual murders are taking place in Moscow. A second severed head has been found in the past 24 hours, this time in the eastern district of Golianovo. It was in a rubbish container. Yesterday evening, a head in a plastic bag was found on a table in the courtyard on Krasnoyarskaya Street.
Both men had been dead for 24 hours. The circumstances are almost identical: the victims are from the Caucasus, aged 30-40 and have dark hair. Their identities are unknown. Such are the results of racist propaganda in the run-up to the parliamentary elections. Our people are very susceptible and react promptly.
Putin does not simply lack competitors. The whole background is an intellectual desert. The affair has no logic, no reason, no sparkle of genuine, serious thinking. Candidate No 1 knows best and requires no advice. There is nobody to moderate his arrogance. Russia has been humiliated.
Ivan Rybkin has announced he will stand [against Putin]. He is the creature of Putin’s main opponent, Boris Berezovsky, now in exile abroad. Rybkin used to be the speaker of the Duma and chairman of the National Security Council. Who is he today? Time will tell.
January 6 2004
Those at the top and bottom of our society might as well be living on different planets. I set off to see the most underprivileged of all: Psycho-Neurological Orphanage No. 25 on the outskirts of Moscow. The surroundings here are warm and clean. The patient carers are kind, very tired, overworked women. Everything here is good, except that the children don’t cry. They are silent or they howl. There is no laughter.
When he is not grinding his teeth, 15-month-old Danila is silent, peering attentively at the strangers. He does not look at you as you would expect of a 15-month-old baby; he peers straight into your eyes, like an FSB interrogator. He has catastrophically limited experience of human tenderness.
The wave of charitable giving in Russia stopped in 2002 when the Putin administration revoked tax privileges for charities. Until 2002, children our orphanages were showered with gifts and new year presents. Now the rich no longer give them presents. Pensioners bring them their old, tattered shawls.
Meanwhile, our nouveau riche are skiing this Christmas in Courchevel. More than 2,000 Russians, each earning over half a million roubles [£10,000] a month, congregate for the “Saison russe”. The menu offers eight kinds of oysters, the wine list includes bottles at £1,500, and in the retinue of every nouveau riche you can be sure of finding the government officials, our true oligarchs, who deliver these vast incomes to the favoured 2,000. The talk is of success, of the firebird of happiness caught by its tail feathers, of being trusted by the state authorities. The “charity” of officialdom, otherwise known as corruption, is the quickest route to Courchevel.
The body of Aslam Davletukaev, abducted from his home on January 10, has been found showing signs of torture. He has been shot in the back of the head. Aslan was a well-known Chechen human rights campaigner. Our democracy continues its decline. Nothing in Russia depends on the people; Putin is resuscitating our stereotype: “Let us wait until our feudal lord comes back. He will tell us how everything should be.” It has to be admitted that this is how the Russian people likes it, which means that soon Putin will throw away the mask of a defender of human rights. He won’t need it anymore.
8.32am: there has been an explosion in the Moscow metro. The train was heading into the city centre during the rush hour when a bomb exploded beside the first door of the second carriage. Thirty people died at the scene, and another nine died later from their burns. There are 140 injured. There are dozens of tiny, unidentifiable fragments of bodies. More than 700 people emerged from the tunnel, having evacuated themselves without any assistance. In the streets there is chaos and fear, the wailing sirens of the emergency services, millions of people terrorised.
At 10.44 the Volcano-5 Contingency Plan for capturing the culprits was implemented, more than two hours after the explosion. Who do they think they are going to catch? If there were any accomplices they will have fled long ago. At 12.12 the police started searching for a man aged 30-35, “of Caucasian appearance”. Very helpful.
Ivan Rybkin has disappeared. A bit of excitement in the election at last. His wife is going crazy. On February 2, Rybkin harshly criticised Putin and his wife believes that did for him.
No details have yet been established of the type of bomb used in the metro. Putin keeps repeating, as he did after Nord-Ost [the attack by Chechen militants on a Moscow theatre in 2002, which ended with 130 hostages killed when special forces gassed and stormed the building], that nobody inside Russia was responsible. Everything was planned abroad. A day of mourning has been declared but the television stations barely observe it. Loud pop music and cheerful TV advertisements make you feel ashamed.
Two of those who died are being buried today. One is Alexander Ishunkin, a 25-year-old lieutenant in the armed forces. His Uncle Mikhail identified his body in the mortuary. Seven years ago Alexander’s father was killed, and since then Alexander had been the very dependable head of the family. Even in issuing his death certificate the state can’t refrain from dishonesty: the box for “Cause of death” has been crossed through. Not a word about terrorism.
Rybkin has been found. A very strange episode. At midday he announced he was in Kiev. He said he had just been on holiday there with friends and that, after all, a human being has a right to a private life! Kseniya Ponomaryova promptly resigned as leader of his election team. His wife is refusing to talk to him. In late evening he flew into Moscow from Kiev, looking half-dead and not at all like someone who has been having a good time on holiday. He was wearing women’s sunglasses and was escorted by an enormous bodyguard. “Who was detaining you?” he was asked, but gave no reply. He also refused to talk to the investigators from the Procurator’s Office who had been searching for him. It was later announced he might withdraw his candidacy. In St Petersburg, skinheads have stabbed to death nine-year-old Khursheda Sultanova in the courtyard of the flats where her family lived. Her father, 35-year-old Yusuf Sultanov, a Tadjik, has been working in St Petersburg for many years. That evening he was bringing the children back from the Yusupov Park ice slope when some aggressive youths started following them.
In a dark connecting courtyard leading to their home the youths attacked them. Khursheda suffered 11 stab wounds and died immediately. Yusuf’s 11-year-old nephew, Alabir, escaped in the darkness by hiding under a parked car. Alabir says the skinheads kept stabbing Khursheda until they were certain she was dead. They were shouting, “Russia for the Russians!” The Sultanovs are not illegal immigrants. They are officially registered as citizens of St Petersburg, but fascists are not interested in ID cards. When Russia’s leaders indulge in soundbites about cracking down on immigrants and guest labourers, they incur the responsibility for tragedies such as this.
Fifteen people were detained shortly afterwards, but released. Many turned out to be the offspring of people employed by the law-enforcement agencies of St Petersburg. Today, 20,000 St Petersburg youths belong to unofficial fascist or racist organisations. The St Petersburg skinheads are among the most active in the country and are constantly attacking Azerbaijanis, Chinese and Africans. Nobody is ever punished, because the law-enforcement agencies are themselves infected with racism. You have only to switch off your audio recorder for the militia to start telling you they understand the skinheads, and as for those blacks … etc, etc. Fascism is in fashion.
The Candidate Rybkin soap opera continues. Before this, Rybkin had the reputation of being a meticulous person, not a heavy drinker and even slightly dull. “Two days in Kiev” are very much out of character. Rybkin reports that after he disappeared he spent a certain amount of time in Moscow Province at Woodland Retreat, the guest-house of the Presidential Administration. He was taken from there and found himself in Kiev. He says further that those controlling him compelled him to call Moscow from Kiev and talk lightheartedly about having a right to a private life.
Alexander Litvinenko in London and Oleg Kalugin in Washington, former FSB/KGB officers who have been granted political asylum in the west, have suggested that a psychotropic substance called SP117 may have been used on Rybkin. [Litvinenko died in London last November after being poisoned.] This compound was used in the FSB’s counter-intelligence sections and in units combating terrorism, but only in exceptional cases on “important targets”. SP117 is a truth drug that prevents an individual from having full possession of his mind. He will tell everything he knows. These statements will not save Rybkin. Putin has won this round against Berezovsky, now his sworn enemy, but his pal in the late 1990s.
Ivan Rybkin has announced that he will not be returning from London. A defecting presidential candidate is a first in our history. Nobody now has any doubt that the regime drugged him.
The Sultanovs, the family of the little girl Khursheda who was murdered by skinheads in St Petersburg, have abandoned Russia and gone to live in Tajikistan. They took a small coffin containing the child’s remains.
Everything is being reduced to absurdity. The appointment of [Mikhail] Fradkov as prime minister by the Duma deserves an entry in the Guinness Book of Records. 352 votes in favour of a man who, when asked what his plans for the future were, could only blurt: “I have just come out of the shadow into the light.” Fradkov is a man of the shadows because he is a spy. We have a truly third-rate prime minister. The country is sinking into a state of collective unconsciousness, into unreason.
Silence and apathy. Nobody can be bothered to listen to the drivel coming from the television. Let’s just get it over with.
Well, so he’s been elected. By and large, the concept of ruling the country by the same methods used in conducting the “anti-terrorist operation” has been vindicated: L’Etat, c’est Putin.
· In G2 on Monday: Politkovskaya’s devastating report on the Beslan school hostage disaster; and on Tuesday, her interview with Ramzan Kadyrov, the Chechen warlord suspected of involvement in her murder. Extracted from A Russian Diary, copyright © Anna Politkovskaya 2007. English translation copyright © Arch Tait 2007. Published by Harvill Secker next month at £17.99. To order a copy for £16.99 with free UK p&p go to guardian.co.uk/bookshop or call 0870 836 0875