Several Chechen separatist websites last week published a letter, ostensibly written by five former members of the “Gorets” special forces unit headed by Movladi Baisarov, the erstwhile bodyguard to Akhmad Kadyrov who was gunned down in Moscow last November, claiming that Anna Politkovskaya was murdered by three “Gorets” members who had defected to Ramzan Kadyrov’s camp.
The letter, which was apparently first sent to veteran human rights activist Lev Ponomarev, was posted on the Chechenpress website on March 23. It claimed that Ramzan Kadyrov sent the “Gorets” defectors to Moscow to carry out a certain task, which turned out to be the award-winning journalist’s assassination. In Moscow, the three “Gorets” defectors were prepped for the mission by a Federal Security Service (FSB) colonel identified as Igor Dranets, and after killing Politkovskaya in Moscow and reporting back to Kadyrov in Chechnya, the three were themselves shot to death by Kadyrov’s bodyguards and their bodies burned, the letter claimed. Relatives of the three dead defectors appealed to Baisarov, who confronted Kadyrov. Baisarov was then placed on Chechnya’s list of wanted criminal and within weeks was himself shot to death in Moscow, apparently by Chechen agents loyal to Kadyrov.
The letter has been widely greeted with skepticism. Kommersant, on March 28, quoted Novaya gazeta military correspondent Vyacheslav Izmailov as saying that he and other Novaya gazeta staffers had on several occasions received similar letters accusing Baisarov, Kadyrov and even the exiled tycoon Boris Berezovsky of murdering Politkovskaya. “I am familiar with the text of the letter received by Lev Ponomarev,” Izmailov told Kommersant. “In my opinion, that information has nothing to do with the truth.” Likewise, Novaya gazeta editor-in-chief Dmitry Muratov called the letter “far-fetched,” Interfax reported on March 28. “There can only be one comment here – that a person who reads it carefully and compares it with the circumstances surrounding the death of Anna Stepanovna [Politkovskaya] sees clear incongruities there,” the news agency quoted Muratov as saying. He noted in particular that the letter says Politkovskaya was murdered early in the morning, when in fact she was killed around four in the afternoon.
According to Kommersant, the press service of Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov called the letter “nonsense” and refused to comment further.
Meanwhile, Reuters, on March 22, quoted Politkovskaya’s sister Yelena Kudimova as saying that investigators had narrowed the search for her killers to a few possibilities, but that she could not predict whether or when charges would be brought. “She had quite a lot of enemies,” Kudimova told the news agency. “There could potentially be a number of people who might have killed her.” Kudimova said that a new book about Chechnya that Politkovskaya had started writing in 2006 will be published this year and will contain “explosive” material. Kudimova, who will complete the book with a chapter of her own about her sister, described Politkovskaya as “very feminine, not just a warrior.”
Politkovskaya’s diaries, which recently were published in English, state, among other things, that Russian lawlessness and brutality drove young Chechens into armed resistance. “In the Chechen town of Urus-Martan, three boys have gone off to fight for the resistance,” she said in 2005. “They left notes for their relatives explaining that they could…see no other way to get back at the failure to punish evildoers.” As Reuters noted, the diaries have not been published in Russian.