Anna Politkovskaya, the Novaya gazeta correspondent who has written many fearless reports from Chechnya, was poisoned under suspicious circumstances while on her way to cover the hostage crisis in Beslan. The episode inevitably recalls the mysterious death of her colleague, the newspaper’s deputy editor Yuri Shchekochikhin, last year, who may also have been deliberately poisoned.
According to an account published by Newsru.com on September 2—based on a conversation with Novaya gazeta editor Dmitri Muratov—the previous evening Politkovskaya had been on her way by plane to North Ossetia. She was supposed to transfer to another flight in the south-Russian city of Rostov on the Don, but during the transfer she fell ill so severely that she lost consciousness. She was quickly hospitalized, and Muratov said that the doctors were barely able to save her life.
During the 2002 hostage crisis at the Dubrovka theater in Moscow, Politkovskaya took part in negotiations with the hostage-takers—as did the pediatrician Leonid Roshal, whose presence was specifically requested last week by the hostage-takers in Beslan. According to a September 2 account on the Grani.ru website, Politkovskaya was originally supposed to be on the same flight with Roshal, but she and several other journalists were denied permission to board. She then tried to board another flight, and was again denied permission. She finally succeeded in boarding a plane to Rostov on the Don after its pilot recognized her and personally escorted her onto the aircraft.
One of the suspicious circumstances, according to Muratov, is that Politkovskaya had eaten nothing during the entire day before her trip to the south. During the flight all she consumed was some tea—soon after which her symptoms began to appear.
As reported by Grani.ru on September 3, Politkovskaya has told her colleagues that she believes she was “deliberately poisoned” so that she could not travel to Beslan.