One day, at the Ninth Municipal Hospital in Grozny, the Chechen capital, Anna Politkovskaya encountered a 62-year-old woman named Aishat Suleimanova whose eyes expressed ‘complete indifference to the world’, as she wrote in a typical piece. ‘And it is beyond one’s strength to look at her naked body. She has been disembowelled like a chicken. The surgeons have cut into her from above her chest to her groin.’ Two weeks earlier, a ‘young fellow in a Russian serviceman’s uniform put Aishat on a bed in her own house and shot five 5.45mm bullets into her. These bullets, weighted at the edges, have been forbidden by all international conventions as inhumane.’
In the west, Politkovskaya’s honesty brought her a measure of fame and a string of awards, bestowed at ceremonies in hotel ballrooms from New York to Stockholm. At home, she had none of that. Her excoriations of Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, ensured isolation, harassment, and, many predicted, death. ‘I am a pariah,’ she wrote in an essay last year. ‘That is the result of my journalism through the years of the second Chechen war, and of publishing books abroad about life in Russia.’
Russia is unquestionably a dangerous place for journalists — less so than only Iraq and Algeria, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. Thirteen of them have been killed since Mr. Putin came to power in 2000, a little more than two a year on average.
The killings — and the failure to solve them — have created an atmosphere of impunity and violence that extends beyond those whose writings or broadcasts anger those in government or business. That was also lamented here, inside an airy white-stone hall at Troyekurovskoye Cemetery.
Anna Politkovskaya’s killing was the third mob-style assassination of prominence in the last month alone. Andrei Kozlov, the first deputy chairman of the Central Bank, who led efforts to clean up the dirty money of the country’s banking system, was killed as he left a soccer game on Sept. 13. Less than two weeks later, Enver Ziganshin, the chief engineer of Kovytka, a potentially lucrative gas field in Siberia at the center of a dispute with the government, was shot in the back and head at his bathhouse in the countryside.
Anna Politkovskaya was found dead by a neighbor shortly after 5 p.m. A Makarov 9-millimeter pistol had been dropped at her side, the signature of a contract killing, Vitaly Yaroshevsky, the deputy editor of Novaya Gazeta, said in a telephone interview.
“We are certain that this is the horrible outcome of her journalistic activity,” he said. “No other versions are assumed.”
The former Soviet president, Mikhail S. Gorbachev, a shareholder of the newspaper where Ms. Politkovskaya worked, called her killing “a savage crime.”
“It is a blow to the entire democratic, independent press,” Mr. Gorbachev told the Interfax news agency. “It is a grave crime against the country, against all of us.”
Anna Politkovskaya, a Russian journalist known as a fierce critic of the Kremlin’s actions in Chechnya, has been found dead in Moscow.
She was found shot dead near her home in a block of flats in the capital.
A pistol and four bullets were found near her body, the Interfax news agency said, quoting unnamed police sources.
The award-winning journalist fell seriously ill with food poisoning in 2004, which some suspected was an attempt on her life.