Vienna, October 8 – Yesterday, in an article timed to coincide with the second anniversary of the still-unsolved murder of Anna Politkovskaya and the birthday of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, Moscow’s “Novaya gazeta” said that Russian security agencies now regularly engage in murders to eliminate those the Kremlin does not like.
Vyacheslav Izmailov, the paper’s editor for military affairs, chronicles the large number of cases since 2000 when Russian security services have killed the regime’s opponents in Russia or abroad, a pattern that leads him to conclude that “extrajudicial” murders have become “an ordinary practice of the special services” (www.novayagazeta.ru/data/2008/74/02.html).
Many of the people the Russian security services have killed were Chechen militants, including among others, Katar Dozhebyl in Moscow in February 2004, Movzadi Baysarov in November 2006, Magomed Kariyev in Baku in May 2001, Vakha Ibragimov in Baku in September 2003, and, more famously, Zelimkhan Yandarbiyev in Qatar in February 2004.
While many in Russia and the West view these liquidations as part of a legitimate counter-terrorist strategy, the same cannot be said for the killing of former FSB colonel Aleksandr Litvinenko in London in November 2006 or journalist Anna Politkovskaya two years ago, in both of which the Russian security services appear to have been involved.
Instead, Izmailov says, such actions point the existence not only of “a definite system” within the security agencies prepared to murder those Russian leaders in the Kremlin have decided deserve to die even though they have not been found guilty of any crime by a public court, even a tame Russian one.
This system, the editor says, “is connected not only with special operations beyond the borders of Russia but also involves ‘extra-judicial sentences” in Russian prisons and camps. In addition, “Russians and citizens of other countries who work for humanitarian missions in the North Caucasus are kidnapped,” as are those who know about “secret or illegal operations.”
Among the killings of those already serving time for crimes were those of Turpal-Ali Atteriyev, who served as chief of military intelligence in Ichkeria, Salman Raduyev, who was serving a life sentence for his role as commander of “the army of General Dudayev,” and Lecha Islamov who was a field commander known as “the Beard.”
“No one says that these criminals ought not to have been punished,” the “Novaya gazeta” military specialist continues, “but the story of their deaths graphically illustrates the practice” of official murders by the Russian security services.
Also disturbing, although less lethal, he writes, is the kidnappings by these services of journalists and humanitarian workers in order to restrict their activities or to prompt their employers to pull out of the North Caucasus altogether. The first of these, carried out shortly after Vladimir Putin became president, involved RFE/RL journalist Andrei Babitsky.
But after that action, which was so poorly handled that the role of the security services was transparently obvious, the Russian agencies arranged for the kidnappings in January 2001 of Kenneth Gluck and in August 2002 of Arian Erkel, both of whom were working for Doctors without Borders.
Other humanitarian workers from abroad, including Nina Davidovich in July 2002 and Mariam Yevikova in May 2003, were “held in the homes of people who were cooperating with the [Russian] special services, many of whom now occupy high posts in the Caucasus.” The paper notes that it has their names but is not publishing them.
“And we can scarcely be guaranteed against more loud murders in the center of Moscow, more mysterious deaths, strange kidnappings and executions without trial while we have not been able to have official investigations of all these and many other cases of such a flagrant violation of the law.”
But achieving that is not going to be easy, Ismailov says, because those who “carried out” those crimes are “still involved in carrying out others.”