‘You’re an enemy’ ‘Novaya Gazeta’ releases audio version of Anna Politkovskaya’s report on her first meeting with Ramzan Kadyrov
To mark the fourteenth anniversary of journalist Anna Politkovskaya’s murder, the producers of Novaya Gazeta’s podcast “Chto Novogo” (What’s New) released an audio recording of her report on her first meeting with Ramzan Kadyrov. The voiceover, including quotes from both Politkovskaya and Kadyrov, was recorded by Russian actress and director Yulia Aug. At the end of the audio report, there’s a recording of Politkovskaya herself, where she explains why she has continued to work as a journalist.
Anna Politkovskaya published this report about Kadyrov (titled “Tsentrovoy iz Tsentoroya” in Russian) in June 2004. At the time, he was 27 years old and held the position of first deputy prime minister of the Chechen Republic. The journalist met Kadyrov in his home village of Tsentaroy. In the report, Politkovskaya describes the setting of the guest house where they met in detail; she spent about six or seven hours there just waiting for Kadyrov to come speak with her. She makes particular note of the room’s massive, wooden furniture, which was very expensive — “for some reason they forgot to remove the price tags,” she writes.
During their first meeting, Kadyrov told Politkovskaya about his confrontations with terrorists and said his dream is “to fight against [Shamil] Basayev in an open field.” Among other things, he said that he wasn’t going to become the head of Chechnya, because he “wants to fight.” Politkovskaya pointed out that during the interview, Kadyrov changed his mind about various issues several times, for example, he said that the Kremlin doesn’t decide anything and at the same time insisted that absolutely everything is decided by the Kremlin alone.
After the meeting, Politkovskaya returned to the Chechen capital, Grozny, but she went back to Tsentaroy the next day — the head of Chechnya’s State Council had invited her to interview a separatist field commander who had allegedly surrendered to the authorities. There, Politkovskaya spent several hours observing the interrogation of Ibragim Garsiev, who had accused Kadyrov of torture. During the interrogation, Kadyrov not only demanded that Garsiev recant his words (in the end, this is what happened), but also called Politkovskaya an enemy and said that she should be shot. Leaving Tsentaroy for the second time, Politkovskaya feared that she would be killed: “Of course, [I] wasn’t just choked with tears — they were suffocating. Of course, I was expecting a volley [of bullets] in my back.”
Anna Politkovskaya was killed in the entrance of her apartment building on October 7, 2006. Six people were given lengthy prison sentences for their involvement in her murder. Two of them were sentenced to life in prison — Chechen gangster Lom-Ali Gaitukaev, who was convicted of organizing the killing, and his nephew Rustam Makhmudov. Gaitukaev died in prison in June 2017. To this day, the “customer” behind Politkovskaya’s murder remains unknown.
Translation by Eilish Hart
Cover photo: Streckel / Photoguerilla / Sipa / Scanpix / LETA