Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 4 Issue: 16

The federal authorities in Moscow have continued to avoid any public comment on Anna Politkovskaya’s dramatic article in the April 28 issue of Novaya gazeta. The piece identified a Chechen hostage-taker, Khanpash Terkibaev, as an agent of the Russian government. A May 5 article by Politkovskaya noted that there had thus far been no official reaction of any kind to her article of the previous week.

Two facts about Terkibaev seem indisputable. First, his name did indeed appear on published lists naming the hostage-takers who had seized control of a Moscow theater last autumn (in the October 25, 2002, issue of Izvestia, for example). Second, Terkibaev traveled to Strasbourg this spring as an adviser to the Russian delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. Manifestly, the combination of those two facts cries out for some sort of official explanation.

Three prominent human rights advocates in Moscow sent an open letter to the Putin administration on April 29. They were seeking prompt and public clarification of issues “of the highest public importance” raised by Politkovskaya’s article. Lev Ponomarev of the For Human Rights movement, Yury Samodugov of the Andrei Sakharov Center, and writer Aleksandr Tkachenko posed three specific sets of questions:

1. Do the law enforcement organs have information about the participation of Khanpash Nurdyevich Terkibaev in the seizure of the Dubrovka Theatrical Center by the unit of Movsar Baraev?

2. Has a criminal investigation been opened into Terkibaev’s activities?

3. Is Terkibaev an employee of the state owned mass media? Does he now work with the presidential administration or with other state organs? Was he connected with the presidential administration in the past and–if so–what was the nature of that connection?

The three also called for investigations by the Duma and by the federal procuracy. As of May 6, neither the executive nor the legislative branch had given any public answer to their appeal.

In her May 5 article for Novaya gazeta, Anna Politkovskaya reiterated for her readers her newspaper’s specific questions to the federal procuracy. These questions are manifestly more aggressive in their assumptions than the questions posed by Ponomarev and his colleagues:

“Which of the special services monitored from within, through agents planted among the terrorists, the seizure of hostages in the theater? Have the provocateurs who helped carry out such monitoring been exempted from criminal responsibility for their actions, and if so, on what basis? Does the procuracy have any information on why it was that all the terrorists not controlled by the special services were killed?”

Politkovskaya emphasized the procuracy’s failure to address or comment on these questions in any way whatsoever: “Neither ‘you’re lying about everything,’ nor ‘we are now trying to verify the facts’…nothing.”