A former Moscow police officer, Sergei Khadzhikurbanov, was one of six men convicted in 2013 and 2014 for the killing of Anna Politkovskaya, eight years earlier.

The female investigative journalist who worked for the independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta was an outspoken commentator on corruption and human rights abuses committed by Russian forces in Chechnya. The 48-year-old mother of two was gunned down in the entrance of her apartment in central Moscow in October 2006.

Khadzhikurbanov was sentenced to 20 years in prison in May 2014 after having previously being acquitted in 2009.

The Russian news site RBC reported on Tuesday that the former policeman had received a presidential pardon after serving in Russia’s Armed Forces in the so-called “special military operation,” citing his lawyer Alexei Mikhalchik who said:

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“Khadzhikurbanov participated in [the campaign in Ukraine] as a prisoner under his first contract… He was then pardoned and now participates as a freelance military man having signed a contract with the Defense Ministry.”

The lawyer gave no specific details as to when his client was recruited and signed up for the war or when he was pardoned.

Trial and sentencing of Politkovskaya’s killers

Faced with a manpower shortage on the front line, Russia allowed the Wagner private military company to begin recruiting convicts to fight in Ukraine last summer with Russia’s Defense Ministry continuing to do so since early 2023.

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The Moscow City Court handed down life sentences to two of the six men convicted of the 2006 killing of Politkovskaya in the 2014 trial. Lom-Ali Gaitukayev, who was found guilty of organizing the killing, and his nephew Rustam Makhmudov, who did the shooting, were sentenced to life imprisonment.

Three others involved in the conspiracy were given lengthy prison sentences. Ibrahim and Dzhabrail Makhmudov received 12 years and 14 years, respectively while Khadzhikurbanov, got 20 years for his involvement. Another former police officer, Dmitry Pavlyuchenkov, was sentenced to 11 years in prison in 2013 for his involvement in the case.

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The murders are believed to have been ordered by a third party who has never been identified. The European Court of Human Rights has condemned Russia for failing to take adequate steps to find who ordered Politkovskaya’s murder.

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