Saturday, February 24, 2007

On the Trail of Politkovskaya's Killers

“Exposure of the Target”, or Something About Cultural Codes

Yezhednevniy Zhurnal

by Yulia Latynina

September 24, 2007

The unraveling of the murder of Anna Politkovskaya began when the investigation noted something: one month before Politkovskaya was murdered, a certain Lieutenant Colonel in the FSB, Pavel Ryaguzov, without leaving Chechnya, looked up the address of Politkovskaya in an FSB database and immediately called a certain Shamil Buraev.

According to the testimony of Ryaguzov, this Buraev asked Ryaguzov to find the address, and the latter, good soul that he was, was unwittingly made use of. I will note, however, that the facts neither refute nor support this version of events. The facts are simply that Pavel Ryaguzov looked up Anna Politkovskaya’s address in an FSB database and after that called Shamil Buraev. Two explanations are possible.

It is possible that the “organizer” (one of them) Buraev requested the “executor”, Ryaguzov, to determine the address. Or it might have been that the “organizer” (one of them) Ryaguzov found the address and provided it to the “executor” (one of them), Buraev.

Buraev is an ex-head of the Achka-Martanovskiy region, a “federal man” to his bone marrow, brought to the region in a deployment of federal forces in 1995, and in 1996 directed the region from he great city of Moscow. He was federal to the point that it was hard to tell in this duo where the chekist began and Chechen ended, but it was clear why it was easy for him to turn to Ryaguzov, or Ryaguzov to turn to Buraev.

But this story about acquiring the address stuck in my head, and I thought for a long time what it reminded me of. And then I remembered.

A few years ago, in a home I had just recently rented, the phone rang. It was a former KGB guy. (He was delirious, accusing all his personal enemies of being in a conspiracy against democracy, so it’s not important what he has after.) The KGB guy, having called, decided to try and impress me. “I acquired your address from a database - well, you understand, I have these connections,” he said. “But the address where you were registered was not where you were living. They gave me a telephone number, and when I called that number I got another number, and from that number I got this number.” What an idiot, I thought: All you had to do was call Novaya Gazeta and say you were with the New York Times.

It soon became clear that I was not alone in my contempt for people who “acquire” addresses the way they did back in the good old 1970s. One of my oligarch acquaintances, choking back laughter, told the story of how he bought a copy of his own dossier from the security services. In the dossier there were several volumes of transcripts from telephone calls. But the oligarch could not figure it out: who were these people - Vasya, Masha; buy some potatoes, change the diapers. What in the world? Potatoes? Only after digging into it deeper did the oligarch realize that the ops officers had over a period of several months diligently tapped the phone line of… his old apartment, which he had once rented, but had not been living there, of course, for about ten years.

And then I heard the story of another friend. He ordered the profile of a competitor from some “special services officers” (spetsovs) from the intelligence services, and the officers, trying to impress him, delivered my friend’s own dossier as well. I should note that my friend had three years before divorced his wife and immediately remarried. Coming to a phrase about how he had “lately been showing up everywhere with a mysterious blonde woman, whom no one knows” (in reference to a woman with whom he had been married for three years, and who worked at a major bank), my friend stopped reading and kicked out the “spetsovs”.

And then a little while later I was talking with one these “spetsovs” myself. “You look up the address in a database, find the telephone number, registration number, and voila - in ten minutes you’ve exposed the target,” he told me proudly. I remember my amusement: How could this grown, intelligent, cultivated man say that “in ten minutes the target is exposed”? What if the telephone number is for his father? And what if the man is driving his wife’s car, and she his? Who will you be following?

Why am I going into all this? Because there is a big difference between the cultural codes of a person raised in the system of the Soviet KGB - a person who is accustomed to thinking that there is always a residence permit and a single telephone number, and who was trained in specific methods of “exposing the target” - and the world view of normal people, be they entrepreneurs or bandits. People who understand that “exposing” a well-known journalist is pretty basic. One need not “access a database”, “expose the target”, etc.

Let us recall what we know about the Politkovskaya case.

First the murderers found the address in an FSB database. Then it turned out that the addresss was an old one, and then they sent an “outside surveillant” (naruzhka), who followed her from her work to her home. And do you know who did this, according to the scenario published in the mass media? Who paid the “naruzhka”? The Chechen killers, who were so poor that they could not destroy the car in which they arrived to kill Politkovskaya – and now the car is in the hands of the investigation.

And that’s just the beginning! According to the prosecutor Chaika, “There were two groups of surveillants; when one was following the journalist, the second directed them, and vice-versa.”

This is too much to imagine. If the first group - the”gunslingers”, were hired police surveillants, then to what agency did the second group belong? What kind of killers, too penurious to get rid of a car, would lay out money for two groups of “naruzhki”? And why would they want to supervise the work of the first group of naruzhki - to write a report to their management? What kind of killers would risk exposing their activities to such a large number of government officials?

Would it be hard for a group of private Chechen killers to find Politkovskaya’s address? Piece of cake. Just write a letter to the editor: “I, Mohammed such-and-such, want to tell you about my friend who was tortured in Khankala.” Set up a meeting in a café and follow Anna from the café home. The entire operation would be done in one day by two brothers, who would not pay anyone or expose anyone.

But the organizers did things a different way. An FSB database, two groups of “naruzhki”… Cultural codes, I tell you.

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