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MEMORYLETTER

grisha radchenko24/06/24 20:57892

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The first image depicts a garden on the grounds of the Berkat Hotel in Grozny, the capital of the Chechen Republic. The hotel is located at Gennady Troshev Street, building 29A. 

The street, previously known as Krasnoznamennaya, gained its current name on September 22nd, 2008—just eight days after the tragic crash of a Boeing 737 in Perm. Gennadiy Troshev was among the passengers on this Boeing.

According to Wikipedia, Troshev served as the head of the Russian armed forces during military actions in Chechnya and Dagestan from 1995 to 2002. In March 2001, he gave his support in court to Yuriy Budanov, an ex-colonel of the Russian army charged with the rape and murder of an 18-year-old Chechen girl named Elsa Kungayeva. From February 25th, 2003, to May 7th, 2008, Troshev served as an advisor for Cossack affairs to the Russian president.

Troshev‘s obituary, published on September 23rd, 2008, by a Russian newspaper, says: “The ex-head of the allied group of the federal armed forces was not a stranger to Chechnya. During the [First and Second Chechen War] campaigns, as a native of Grozny and unlike many of his colleagues, he tried to capture the towns not with fighting but through negotiations with the locals, earning considerable respect with them.” 

Images of the Russian tricolor adorn the website of the newspaper responsible for this text.


***

Yuriy Budanov, the ex-colonel charged with rape and murder, received his conviction in 2003 and, after spending five years in prison, was granted a conditional release. He was shot dead on June 10th, 2011.

As the investigators subsequently stated, the shooter turned out to be a Chechen native, Yusup-Khadji Temerkhanov.

The motive of the crime, according to the court, was his hatred for the Russian military as a result of his father’s death during the Second Chechen War. According to some sources, his father, Shamil Gagalov, used to own a cafe in Geldagana village. Once, while serving Russian soldiers, he asked them to pay for their food. In response, they shot him down and set fire to his cafe and car.

According to the Chechen journalist Adam Adami, a childhood friend of Yusup, not long before his official arrest, individuals dressed in police uniforms kidnapped Temerkhanov. They held him captive in a basement on the outskirts of Moscow for five days, subjecting him to strangulation, electric shock torture, and constant beatings. They ordered him to take responsibility for Budanov’s murder and to implicate the Chechen government under Ramzan Kadyrov.

Murad Musayev, Yusup Temerhanov’s lawyer, also claimed that case participants were kidnapped and tortured during court proceedings. Here’s his Facebook post about Alexander Evtukhov from Novosibirsk, a witness to Yuri Budanov’s murder:

“A week before the trial, on Monday, January 14th, 2013, unidentified police officers removed the witness Evtukhov from his flight to Novosibirsk, interrogated him throughout the night, and then released him. Three days before the trial, on Friday, while en route to the Moscow trial, Evtukhov was again abducted in Barnaul and disappeared.”

The same happened to another witness to Yuri Budanov’s murder, Ruslan Fataliyev from Volgograd. According to Fataliyev, his kidnappers turned out to be police officers from Moscow and Volgograd Oblast. They wanted him to change his testimony as Evtukhov did.

Recounting their memories of the day of the murder, witnesses described the shooter as a white man with blond, even reddish, hair, neither athletic nor thin, and a height of around 175–180 cm. Murad Musayev insisted that his client’s appearance bore no resemblance to these descriptions.

According to Musayev’s words, the trial in May 2013 did not reveal Yusup Temerkhanov’s motive invented by the investigators—“hatred towards the social group of servicemen”—and didn’t include it in the indictment. It appeared that the murder was entirely unmotivated.

On May 7, 2013, the court found Yusup-Khadji Temerkhanov guilty and sentenced him to fifteen years in maximum security prison, despite all the violations during the trial process.

He died on September 3rd, 2018, in a prison hospital.


***

Later, authorities charged Murad Musaev with bribing witnesses and pressuring jurors to disrupt the trial. In some interviews, he suggested that the criminal proceedings against him were a result of his work as an attorney. Among the several cases he was handling at the time was the case of Anna Politkovskaya’s murder.

On October 7th, 2006, Anna Politkovskaya, a Russian journalist and vocal opponent of Kremlin policies, was murdered. Unknown assailant shot her on the birthday of the then-President Vladimir Putin in the elevator of her Moscow apartment building. The investigation into her murder led to a complex and controversial case. Some suggested that her investigative journalism, particularly her reporting on human rights abuses in Chechnya, made her a target.

The trial, split into two parts, spanned approximately eight years, with some suspects acquitted and others convicted. The trial concluded in May 2014, charging six individuals with organizing and committing the crime.

Three of them turned out to be brothers of Chechen origin: Djabrail, Ibragim, and Rustam Mahmudov. Murad Musaev’s client Djabrail and his brother Ibragim received sentences of fourteen and twelve years, respectively. The charges against them included conducting surveillance and providing assistance in the crime. Rustam, the third brother suspected of being the killer, received a life sentence.

The investigation revealed that Lom-Ali Gaitukaev, a criminal authority with a history of illegal activities dating back to the 1990s and an uncle of Mahmudov brothers, curated them. Gaitukaev was already serving a jail sentence, accused of involvement in another crime—the attempted murder of Ukrainian businessman Gennadiy Corban—at the time of Anna Politkovskaya’s murder. During the trial, he claimed that in Ukraine, he was not only conducting regular business but was also collecting information about Chechen crime groups for Russian Security Services.

Anna Politkovskaya’s colleagues from Novaya Gazeta, after conducting their own independent investigation, also found out that both Lom-Ali Gaitukaev and Rustam Makhmudov were unofficial agents of the FSB.

Like Rustam, Lom-Ali Gaitukaev received a life sentence after his conviction for organizing the murder. He passed away in a prison hospital in July 2017, presumably due to the consequences of regular beatings.

The newspaper Echo of the Caucasus published an article earlier that year, focusing on the special treatment of Chechens and people of Caucasus nationalities in the Russian correctional system. In the text titled “Not All Caucasians Are Released Alive From Russian Prisons,” journalist Amina Umarova described the case of Timur Khasanov, who served almost 16 years for participating in military operations against federal forces during the Chechen Wars and was brutally killed on the territory of Medical Correctional Facility No. 33.

Located on Dzerzhinsky Street in Mariinsk, Kemerovo Oblast, the facility cared for and treated men with tuberculosis. The street was named after Felix Dzerzhinsky, the first chairman of the All-Russian Emergency Commission (CHEKA), later known as the NKVD, KGB, and nowadays the FSB.

A former Timur Khasanov cellmate, speaking anonymously to the journalist, stated that specialized correctional facilities like that are used to break undesirable inmates, primarily those of Caucasian nationalities.

“Since 2003, prison authorities have transferred individuals of Chechen, Dagestani, Ingush, and other Caucasian origins to Colony No. 16. It’s a tuberculosis zone. If they couldn’t break a perfectly healthy person or didn’t like something, they would send them to Colony 16, where everyone had tuberculosis. Under the pretext of a medical examination, they sent the disobedient inmates there, locking them in rooms with people suffering from severe forms of tuberculosis. Naturally, they contracted the infection and succumbed to the disease. They still continue to do so. During the eight years I served in that prison, I saw and heard a lot.”

Presently, there are about 95 streets named after Felix Dzerzhinsky in Russia. There are also 8 streets in Belarus and 2 in Kazakhstan.

Members of Novaya Gazeta provided information that Lom-Ali Gaitukaev contacted journalists and arranged a meeting with them just a few days before his death. They assume he was ready to reveal the names of those involved Anna Politkovskaya’s murder.

Dmitry Pavlyuchenkov was presumed to have been the fifth suspect in the journalist’s murder. Similar to Ali Gaitukaev, investigators suspected him of having connections with the masterminds behind Politkovskaya’s murder. They accused him, a former Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) employee, of orchestrating surveillance on Politkovskaya, involving other department employees to whom he paid a fee using funds received from Ali-Gaitukaev. Moreover, they accused him of transferring weapons to Rustam Mahmudov.

He managed to avoid a lengthy prison term via a plea deal. In court, he testified against his accomplices and promised to reveal the names of those who orchestrated the murder. 

The court sentenced Dmitry Pavluchenkov to 11 years in prison. According to the Politkovskaya family’s lawyers and journalists from Novaya Gazeta, he did not fulfill the main condition of the plea deal and didn’t reveal the names of those behind the murder. They also suggested that it wasn’t the only incident when he provided surveillance for private individuals using the department’s resources. 

The sixth person charged with organizing Anna Politkovskaya’s murder was a former operative of the Department for Combating Organized Crime (UBOP) of the Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs named Sergei Hadjikurbanov. His department specialized in dealing with ethnic criminal groups and hostage rescue operations. On charges of abuse of authority, the Ministry of Internal Affairs dismissed him in 2003 and a court sentenced him to 4 years in prison for planting 1 kilogram of heroin on Azerbaijani entrepreneur Fizuli Mamedov. Some experts assumed he also introduced Lom-Ali Gaitukaev to Federal Security Service (FSB) agents.

Sergey Hadjikurbanov, along with one of these agents, was also mentioned in the 2002 case regarding the beatings and extortion of businessman Eduard Ponikarov. Sergei Ryaguzov, a former Lieutenant Colonel of the FSB, was this agent. In 2008–2009, the court connected him as a suspect to the murder case of Anna Politkovskaya. Despite the assumption that he used his work access to the FSB database to obtain Politkovskaya’s contact information, the jurors acquitted him. They decided that he didn’t know the purpose and context of the inquiry.

Sergei Hadjikurbanov received a 20-year prison sentence in the Anna Politkovskaya case for his complicity in organizing the crime and installing surveillance equipment. The President of the Russian Federation pardoned him in 2023 for his participation in military actions during the invasion on Ukraine’s territory and awarded him the Order of Courage. Many of his biographical descriptions also mention that he is a member of the Union of Journalists of Russia.

In 2004, Politkovskaya had the opportunity to interview Ramzan Kadyrov, who at the time was the First Deputy Prime Minister of the Government of the Chechen Republic. After spending two days around him and witnessing, among other things, his phone call with Vladislav Surkov, the Assistant to the President of the Russian Federation in 1999–2011, she stated: “Well, it is the same old fairy tale, which history had plenty of: the Kremlin grew a dragon, and now it requires constant feeding so it doesn’t breathe fire. They are attempting to portray the complete failure of Russian intelligence in Chechnya as a triumph and 'the building of civil life' to the public.”

The statute of limitations expired, and a court closed the cases against Murad Musaev. Approximately 60 lawyers and members of the Russian Bar Association spoke in his defense.

The identities of the masterminds behind Anna Politkovskaya’s murder are still unknown. 


***

Stanislav Markelov, one of the Elsa Kungaeva family’s lawyers in the case against Yuriy Budanov, was gunned down on Prechistenka Street in Moscow on January 19th, 2009, along with his colleague, activist Anastasia Boburova. 

On the next day, Visa Kungaev, Elsa’s father, stated: “Markelov was a very honest, decent, competent lawyer. My family knew him for nine years. He stood up for our rights, and it led to his death. <…>. I wanted to attend the funerals, yet I received a warning about the risk of traveling to Russia, as they kill people near the Kremlin now.”

According to the latest accounts by the media, he was living in Norway with his family.

Nikita Tikhonov and Evgeniya Hasis, members of the neo-Nazi group BORN (Fighting Unit of Russian Nationalists), shot both Markelov and Boburova. The group also faced charges for the violent killings of at least 10 individuals, including Muslim Abdulaev, the world champion in Thai boxing, taxi driver Soso Hachikyan, janitor Salohitdin Asisov, judge Eduard Chuvashov, and antifascists Fedor Filatov, Ilya Djaparidze, and Ivan Khutorskoy.

A government-sponsored conservative and nationalist-oriented movement known as “Locals” (Mestnye), founded with the primary goal of promoting anti-immigrant laws, included some members of the BORN group as leaders or participants. During the first Russian military invasion of Ukraine in 2014, Leonid Simulin, one of them, worked as a civil servant in the energy sector in the Donetsk Oblast.

Nikita Tikhonov, the killer of Markelov and Boburova, gave testimony against the other members of the group, as well as against its founder, Ilya Goryachev, after receiving a life sentence:

"In the fall of 2007, Ilya Goryachev informed me that he had connections in the political establishment, including acquaintances in the Presidential Administration, and suggested committing crimes in the interests of these people—for example, attacking members of the political opposition."

***


On March 30th, 2014, after the annexation of the Crimean Peninsula by Russian military forces, Murad Musaev posted in his LiveJournal blog:

“The national question, which dominated the media landscape not so long ago and was considered a catastrophic event in Russia’s life and a threat to its national security and public morality, has disappeared from radio stations and TV channels, from newspapers, from the most popular websites, and from the speeches of politicians. <…> Now, Crimea is our everything.”

The crash of a Boeing 737 carrying Gennadiy Troshev in 2008 sparked speculation in the media. Some authors suggested that it was not a coincidence. 

In Chechen, the word "berkat" (as in Berkat Hotel on the Gennady Troshev street in Grozny) means, among other things, "fertile".

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