Publication: Monitor Volume: 7 Issue: 38

Anna Politkovskaya, the correspondent with the biweekly newspaper Novaya Gazeta who was detained by Russian troops in Chechnya yesterday, was taken by helicopter to the military base at Khankala, just outside the Chechen capital (see the Monitor, February 22). The military command at Khankala has promised to take her today to the military base at Mozdok, in the neighboring republic of North Ossetia. From there she can return to Moscow. Politkovskaya asked the military prosecutor’s office in Chechnya yesterday to launch a criminal case into her illegal detention by federal forces in Chechnya’s Vedeno region. Speaking to journalists in Khankala, Politkovskaya said she had gone to Chechnya to look into the collective complaints of the inhabitants of a number of villages in Vedeno concerning “outrages” committed by Russian forces. She said she was detained when she was leaving a military checkpoint near the village of Khatuni by soldiers, who said that they had “orders from above” to detain her.

Politkovskaya said also that during her detention at the checkpoint a senior officer who had taken her outside told her that he was taking her for “execution.” She said that the soldiers, whom she said seemed to be psychologically abnormal, “strongly harassed [me], and threatened [me] with execution by a firing squad.” “These were not officers,” she said, “but a band of Makhno,” a reference to Nestor Makhno, the Ukrainian anarchist whose armed units fought during the civil war which followed the 1917 Bolshevik revolution. The reporter also claimed that there is “concentration camp” in Khatuni in which detainees are held in same holes in the ground which Chechen rebels previously used to hold prisoners. Meanwhile, Federal Security Service spokesman Aleksandr Zdanovich called Politkovskaya’s claims concerning her alleged mistreatment “absolute lunacy” (Russian agencies, NTV, February 22; Moscow Times, February 23).