A former police officer sentenced to 20 years in prison for his role in organizing the 2006 murder of Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya has been released early in exchange for fighting in the war against Ukraine.
Sergei Khadzhikurbanov was meant to remain behind bars until 2034 for the high-profile murder, but he received a pardon and is now serving as a commander under contract with the Russian Defense Ministry, his lawyer confirmed to RBC.
“Under the first contract, Khadzhikurbanov participated in the [war] as a prisoner, then he was pardoned and is now participating in the [war] as an employed soldier, having entered into a contract with the Defense Ministry. He worked in the special forces in the ‘90s, he has experience, which is probably why he was immediately offered a command position. I believe that in some sense justice has prevailed, since I believe that he was not involved in the murder of Anna Politkovskaya,” attorney Alexei Mikhalchik told the news outlet.
Baza was the first to report on Khadzhikurbanov’s release, citing sources who said the former cop joined the war in late 2022 and signed a new contract after completing his first stint.
“For a prisoner to go from squad commander to battalion commander in a couple of months, he really has to be Rambo,” one source gushed of Khadzhikurbanov.
He is just the latest figure in a high-profile murder to be pardoned as Moscow continues to empty Russian prisons in a bid to keep the Kremlin’s war machine afloat. Last week, news broke that the convicted killer of 23-year-old student Vera Pekhteleva was released and pardoned before serving even a year of his 17-year sentence.
Politkovskaya, a renowned journalist for Novaya Gazeta who exposed human rights abuses in Chechnya, was gunned down in the elevator of her Moscow apartment building on Oct. 7, 2006.
While Khadzhikurbanov was convicted in Politkovskaya’s murder in 2014 along with four others—organizer Lom-Ali Gaitukayev, gunman Rustam Makhmudov and his two brothers Ibragim and Dzhabrail—those who ordered the murder remain unidentified. Russia’s opposition figures have long accused the Kremlin of orchestrating the murder, and the European Court of Human Rights found in 2018 that Moscow had failed to carry out an effective investigation into the crime.
In a clear indication of the Kremlin’s lack of motivation to solve the murder, Vladimir Putin famously took a swipe at Politkovskaya after her death, telling a Dresden news conference that her work was “extremely insignificant for political life in Russia.”