Publication: Monitor Volume: 8 Issue: 29

The Russian military command in Chechnya has threatened to ask the Kremlin to rescind its accreditation of Anna Politkovskaya, correspondent for the biweekly newspaper Novaya Gazeta, that allows her to report from the breakaway republic. According to “the press center of the regional operational staff of the management for counterterrorist operations on the territory of the North Caucasus regions”–or, to use its Russian abbreviation, OPTs-ROSH–Politkovskaya arrived on February 9 in Chechnya’s Shatoi district “in violation of the… instructions for journalists accredited by the Russian president’s information department and traveling to a zone in which a counterterrorist operation is being carried out.” OPTs-ROSH reported that Politkovskaya had been “escorted” to the headquarters of the local military commandant “for the purpose of guaranteeing her own security,” advised to spend the night there and to leave the area the next day. The next morning, however, the journalist “without the agreement of the military command… disappeared in an unknown direction,” OPTs-ROSH claimed.

OPTs-ROSH said Politkovskaya’s actions had caused “bewilderment” and damaged the reputations of Novaya Gazeta and other media, including those whose “conscientious work” has “earned the respect” of the military. It went on to claim that Politkovskaya’s mere presence in Chechnya, especially at the locations of military units, “provokes” Russian servicemen. “One has the impression that Politkovskaya acts deliberately and only with the goal of attracting the attention of the public and the press to herself,” OPTs-ROSH said, adding that were such an incident to happen again, it would ask the presidential information department to withdraw Politkovskaya’s accreditation to work in Chechnya (NTV.ru, February 11).

Almost exactly a year ago, Politkovskaya was detained by the Russian military in Chechnya, released and then immediately re-detained by officers of the Federal Security Service (FSB). On her return from Moscow, she claimed that the FSB officers who detained her had accused her of having fake journalistic accreditation and that one FSB officer had told her that were it up to him, he would shoot “such journalists.” Politkovskaya had been investigating a so-called “filtration camp” (detention center), which had been set up at a Russian airborne unit’s base near Vedeno allegedly on the orders of Lieutenant General Valery Baranov, who was then commander of the Russian forces in Chechnya. Politkovskaya reported that persons suspected of connections with the Chechen rebels who were detained at this camp were kept in outdoor pits until relatives ransomed them (see the Monitor, February 26, 2001). Sergei Yastrzhembsky, President Vladimir Putin’s main spokesman on issues related to Chechnya, subsequently accused Politkovskaya of behaving badly (Lenta.ru, February 11).

One of the policemen allegedly involved in these abuses went by the alias “Kadet,” and Politkovskaya reportedly received an email threat telling her to retract the article that was signed “Kadet.” Novaya Gazeta’s military correspondent, Vyacheslav Izmailov, said at the time that other threats against Politkovskaya, which he did not specify, were being passed to him by the special services (see the Monitor, October 18, 2001). The Gazeta.ru website today quoted “Kadet”, aka Sergei Lapin, as denying he had threatened Politkovskaya (Gazeta.ru, February 11). Last year, Politkovskaya, the author of a book on the current war in Chechnya, entitled A Dirty War, received awards from the Union of Journalists of Russia and the New York-based Overseas Press Club for her Chechnya reporting.