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Six Years Later, Children Of Murdered Russian Journalist Fight For Justice

Anna Politkovskaya a year before her death
Anna Politkovskaya a year before her death
Aleksei Sokovnin

MOSCOW - In a new twist in the case of Anna Politkovskaya, the prominent Russian investigative journalist murdered in 2006, her children are filing a petition to rescind a plea bargain reached with one of the men involved in their mother's assassination.

Politkovskaya was a well-known investigative journalist who reported extensively for the Russian paper Novaya Gazeta on Moscow's military actions and abuses in Chechnya. She was gunned down in the entrance to her apartment building in October 2006.

According to Anna Stavitskaya, the Politkovksaya’s children’s lawyer, Ilya and Vera Politkovskaya decided to file the petition after reviewing the details of the testimony of Dmitri Pavlyuchenkov, a former colonel in the Moscow police implicated in the killing.

“I can’t give you details, but we came to the conclusions that Pavlyuchenkov was not completely truthful in his testimony, and that means he did not fulfill the requirements of the plea bargain,” Stavitskaya explained. The plea bargain in question would reduce Pavlyuchenkov’s prison term by one-third.

According to Stavitskaya, the main problem with Pavlyuchenkov’s testimony is that he did not fully explain his true role in the killing of Anna Politkovskaya. “He gave the investigators a politically motivated version regarding the person who contracted the killing,” Stavitskaya said. “We think he is trying to shift blame away from himself. He also named the wrong person when asked to say who contracted the killing.”

During the investigation Pavlyuchenkov said that the businessman Boris Berezovskii and the former emissary from Chechen fighters Akhmed Zakaev were behind the killing. Zakaev now has political refugee status in Britain.

Politkovskaya’s children do not believe those are the real people behind their mother’s assassination, but Stavitskaya did not say who they thought the real mastermind was.

Still they do think that Pavlyuchenkov was one of the main organizers of their mother's murder. They would like to rescind the agreement between them and the prosecutor’s office and return Pavlyuchenkov’s case to the larger investigation regarding the journalist’s death. The other players in the case have not admitted guilt, and will be tried as part of the case.

Links to Forbes editor murder?

Russian investigators have announced that there were no grounds to revoke the agreement with Pavlyuchenkov, since they consider him to have fulfilled the responsibilities written into the agreement. The official representative of the investigative committee, Vladimir Markin, said that in addition to providing information on the death of Anna Politkovskaya, Pavlyuchenkov also “gave valuable information on other criminal investigations that have resonated internationally.”

According to data obtained by Kommersant, he is referring to the killing of the Editor-in-Chief of the Russian edition of Forbes in 2004. Investigators now believe that both crimes were organized by the Chechen criminal Lom-Ali Gaitukaev.

Pavlyuchenkov’s lawyer, Karen Nersesyan, says he understands Politkovskaya’s children’s feelings, but disagrees with them. “The whole point of the agreement is to give someone who admits his or her guilt some bargaining chips,” he said. Nersesyan is sure that his client deserves those bargaining chips.

“When they reviewed the case, I think the victim’s children convinced themselves that they would get all the answers from my client,” Nersesyan said. He says that the roles of the different players, except for the person who hired the killing, are described in detail by his client. If Pavlyuchenkov had not given his testimony, Nersesyan said, the whole case might have gone cold.

Nersesyan doesn't think Politkovskaya’s children would have much luck with their petition. An analysis of the relevant laws would seem to support his position. The law does not generally provide a provision for relatives of the victim to participate in plea bargain agreements in any way.

The investigative committee had originally accused Pavlyuchenkov of organizing the murder from the beginning. According to the investigation’s version of events, Pavlyuchenkov received the “order” from Gaitukaev. With the help of police officers under his command, he had the journalist followed, and gave her address to the two brothers who are accused of having actually carried out the assassination. Colonel Pavlyuchenkov gave a pistol to one of the brothers, who used it to shoot Politkovskaya on October 7, 2006 in the entrance to her Moscow apartment building.

After reaching the plea bargain deal with Pavlyuchenkov, the charges against him were reduced from organizing the murder to being a participant in the murder.

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Life On "Mars": With The Teams Simulating Space Missions Under A Dome

A niche research community plays out what existence might be like on, or en route to, another planet.

Photo of a person in a space suit walking toward the ​Mars Desert Research Station near Hanksville, Utah

At the Mars Desert Research Station near Hanksville, Utah

Sarah Scoles

In November 2022, Tara Sweeney’s plane landed on Thwaites Glacier, a 74,000-square-mile mass of frozen water in West Antarctica. She arrived with an international research team to study the glacier’s geology and ice fabric, and how its ice melt might contribute to sea level rise. But while near Earth’s southernmost point, Sweeney kept thinking about the moon.

“It felt every bit of what I think it will feel like being a space explorer,” said Sweeney, a former Air Force officer who’s now working on a doctorate in lunar geology at the University of Texas at El Paso. “You have all of these resources, and you get to be the one to go out and do the exploring and do the science. And that was really spectacular.”

That similarity is why space scientists study the physiology and psychology of people living in Antarctic and other remote outposts: For around 25 years, people have played out what existence might be like on, or en route to, another world. Polar explorers are, in a way, analogous to astronauts who land on alien planets. And while Sweeney wasn’t technically on an “analog astronaut” mission — her primary objective being the geological exploration of Earth — her days played out much the same as a space explorer’s might.

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