Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 4 Issue: 17

Anna Politkovskaya has indicated to a friendly human rights journalist that her newspaper has additional information about the involvement of Russia’s secret services in the terrorist raid on Moscow’s Dubrovka theater last October–enough information to confirm that involvement even apart from her dramatic interview with an apparent double agent. “The next chunk of information on this topic will be published later,” she said, “depending on what actions our authorities take.”

Politkovskaya said that Khanpash Terkibaev had clearly made an “enormous mistake” in granting her an interview last month, and that she is not certain why he agreed to do so. The Novaya gazeta journalist granted an interview of her own to Stanislav Dmitrievsky, who is editor of the information center of the Russian-Chechen Friendship Society. The interview is her most detailed public response so far to the questions and objections raised by her April 28 article claiming that Terkibaev took part in the raid on the theater as an agent-provocateur for the Russian secret services. The interview is available via the website of Prava cheloveka v Rossii (“Human Rights in Russia,”

Asked whether vanity might have been Terkibaev’s motive for agreeing to meet with her, Politkovskaya agreed that he is “very vain.” But she also suggested “a second possibility”–namely, that Terkibaev may have begun to experience problems with his Russian colleagues and may have decided that he could protect himself from being fired by agreeing to talk with her. By doing so, however, he may now have produced just the result that he was hoping to avoid. “I think that they have already explained to him” what a mistake the interview was, she said. Somewhat cryptically, she added that “soon it will be understood why this was done.”

Another question logically arising from Politkovskaya’s April 28 article and specifically posed by Dmitrievsky: Why did Terkibaev’s Russian employers allow one who knew such scandalous secrets to remain alive after the October events, or why did they not at least put him somewhere far out of sight? “I do not have a clear answer to that question,” she replied. “I just think that he is a very useful person for the authorities in all sorts of situations. He can go visit the other side and then return to their own side, he can travel to Strasbourg with the Russian delegation as a representative of the Chechen people, he can just twist around in circles like a snake. There have always been such people; they simply had a need for him.”

Politkovskaya confirmed to Dmitrievsky that there has so far been no official reaction of any kind to her April 28 article. Despite the serious allegations she makes in it, no investigating official of any kind has contacted her to try to get to the bottom of the story. There have been absolutely no phone calls, she says, no visits, no invitations from the procuracy or other law enforcement or security agencies. Dmitrievsky called the allegations “undoubtedly sensational,” and observed that “it seems to me that in a democratic country such revelations and the reaction produced by them would lead to a governmental crisis.”

Dmitrievsky suggested, and Politkovskaya agreed, that the mainstream Russian mass media have for the most part also given the story the silent treatment. (Jamestown’s website searches have confirmed this.) She said that she and her colleagues at Novaya gazeta had expected something quite different–a hostile but serious reaction, and she blamed the silence on indifference not just among the media but among the general public. “Nobody is interested in the essence of what is happening in the country, but only in P.R.–some for the president, others against.”

Veteran Russia-watcher (and Jamestown Foundation senior fellow) David Satter, author of the new book “Darkness at Dawn: The Rise of the Russian Criminal State,” focused more narrowly on government manipulation of the media. “The authorities’ strategy in the face of such revelations is now well-established–just ignore them in the hope that they will go away,” he said in a May 12 telephone interview. He depicted that strategy as largely successful: “Especially in the West, there is a deep reluctance even to consider the implications of such revelations–and most especially among those who specialize in Russia.” The few detailed media reactions to Politkovskaya’s article have so far come from the reformist, anti-war end of Russia’s political spectrum.