I began translating Sergei Sokolov’s interview with Petros Garibian, the chief investigator in the Anna Politkovskaya murder case late last night. It’s a good thing that I got too blurry eyed to get too far into it considering the NY Times published a translation on its website. I reproduce it below.
Sokolov’s interview with Garibian was published in Novaya as part of its 8 October issue dedicated to Politkovskaya.
Novaya Gazeta’s Interview With Investigator in Journalist’s Murder
Interview with Petros V. Garibyan, the lead federal investigator into the killing of the Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya, scheduled to be published in the Oct. 8 edition of Novaya Gazeta, the independent newspaper where Ms. Politkovskaya worked. The interview was conducted on Oct. 2 by Sergey Sokolov, deputy editor-in-chief of Novaya Gazeta, and translated by Viktor Klimenko and Nikolai Khalip of The New York Times.
“The killer has not yet been accused, but we know who he is”
From the very first day – Oct 07, 2006 – many skeptics appeared who claimed that the murder of Anna Politkovskya would never be solved. So, will you solve it?
It is solved. But the other thing is that we have to find out all the chain: from the one who ordered it to the one who carried it out. And prepare hard evidence of their guilt for the court. I would like to make it clear: specific work began only now – from August 15 – when the first arrests were carried out. And in September quiet work began: the legality of the arrests was confirmed by courts, and we managed to start planned interrogations, “ochniye stavki” (interrogation of two suspects at the same time), and other investigation actions. Before that it had been investigative-operative, search work, checking of all, including the secondary versions. We have just stepped on the straight path, and we should not rush. Let it take a lot of time – but we should not rush, otherwise that huge amount of work that has been done will be lost.
Many people predict that the case will be divided into several parts. At first, those who carried out the crime will be tried and everything dealing with those who ordered it will be made into a separate case to be investigated without rush. Is such variant possible?
It is difficult to say anything about it at the current stage. We all – both the leadership and our group – try to gather all them at once and have all of them landed in the dock. Of course, excluding those who we won’t have arrested at the moment of the trial. Yes, the Criminal Procedural Code limits the period of investigation but we still have a lot of time. Enough.
How many have been arrested and who has been charged?
11 people have been charged and 10 have been arrested. But the list has not been closed. The more so that not all of the arrested have been charged with involvement with the murder of Politkovskaya. They have enough other sins, which have brought them to jail. We will work thoroughly with them including on our main direction.
As far as I understand, it is possible to say now: those who are arrested are those who are suspected of being those who carried out the murder and those who organized it?
As for those who carried it out – yes. If, when talking about those who organized it you mean those who coordinated the activity of those who carried it out, who connected different links in the criminal chain with one another – also yes. But it’s too early to say that the one who organized it, in the procedural meaning of the word, has been arrested.
Have you approached the other links leading to the one who organized it?
We have good ideas: we work on finding the middlemen and those who organized it. As for those who ordered it, we have interesting suggestions, let’s put it this way. And we won’t say anything more. Because it is very difficult – to find the one who ordered it, any information may harm. When a murder is ordered the criminals think about every detail: as a rule the one who orders a murder never applies to killers directly. And nothing comes out until you find this professionally cunning intermediate link.
And what about the killer?
We have not charged the killer yet, but we know who he is.
As you said, not all the arrested have been charged with involvement in the Politkovskaya murder or they have been charged not only in involvement in this crime. What else you have charged them with?
There are different charges: abuse of office, overstepping one’s authority. I cannot give more detail – it’s the secret of investigation.
There was a noisy campaign in the end of August to discredit the investigation which began after two suspects were freed. Why was that decision made?
First, the investigation has many other possibilities besides arrest – the requirement not to leave the jurisdiction, for example. Second, people should understand the specific features of our work: we cannot, right away, this very second, figure out a degree of involvement of every person in the group of suspects. The chain was determined by operative methods: by phone numbers, connections, contacts, and witnesses’ evidence. If there are justified suspicions about involvement of this or that person – he has to be detained, because the criminal may escape. What should we do – send them a subpoena? In this case all the criminals would be on the run. And we were afraid to lose something and somebody because later we would not forgive ourselves as well you and nobody would forgive us for this. This is why all people, known at that moment, the suspicions about whom were based on facts, were detained. We sorted everything out with two of them and they were freed. I would not say that these people are as pure as a child’s tear drop in the face of the law – but they were not implicated in the Politkovskaya murder. This is normal work: to detain the suspects, hold interrogations, check alibis, understand: involved, no, to what extent – and make decision on a measure of restraint. The other thinking would be not normal: to keep those in jail who have nothing to do with it, but found themselves at a bad time in a bad company, with those who are really guilty of the crime.
What is the volume of materials at the current moment – how many volumes – and how many of them will be in the court?
Several dozens of volumes. So far, about ten per cent of the indictment materials that we have now will be sent to court. All the rest deals with versions, which were finally rejected and with initial information. But in the end, I think, the correlation will be fifty-fifty. Now we are going to present proofs to the arrested persons, carry out more arrests, bring others to criminal responsibility.
How many versions were there in the beginning?
I am not a great fan of having multiple versions: this is a sign of non-professionalism. The versions should be based on something realistic and not on theoretical assumptions that it could also happen this way. But in this case six versions were put forward – to me, subjectively, too many – frankly, a rare case. However, those six versions had to be checked from the beginning to the end, otherwise we could, in several months, come back to something from which we shortsightedly refused. Besides, during the investigation, especially in the beginning, many additional directions emerged, false leads, as I understand now, but which also had to be paid attention to and checked. There was much different information, some provocateurs showed up, swindlers – you know it perfectly well – you also came across them and had to spend time on them. How can it be otherwise? Everything has to be checked.
One of the versions that looked promising from the very beginning dealt with the Khanty-Mansi militiamen, one of whom, Lapin (call sign “Cadet”), is on trial now and threatened Politkovskaya with murder?
Yes. It is one of the checked versions; non-involvement of these people into Anna’s murder has been proven completely. Our investigator and an operative officer went there – many people were interrogated – relatives, acquaintances, distant acquaintances, colleagues, the routes of people who interested us were determined. No, they are not involved.
How many versions do you have today?
We checked four and can say that people suspected by us then, are not involved.
And the remaining two?
At the moment they can be combined in one (of course, if we talk about global versions, and not about assumptions about personalities of specific people who ordered it): the murder connected with Politkovskaya’s professional activity and murder on political motives. My subjective opinion: these versions should not be separated, it’s impossible. If we talk about journalistic activity of Anna, we come across politics; if we talk about the political version, come across the professional activity, because Anna was a journalist who wrote on political issues.
Do you remember the 7th of October, how it all started fro you? And what was going on for those 10 months before the arrest?
On the 7th of October last year I was the investigator on duty at the General Prosecutor’s Office. A prosecutor on duty called and said: Politkovskaya was murdered. I went there. Investigators of the Moscow City Prosecutor’s Office were already working there. Naturally, I took part in the examination of the crime site, other floors of the building. I understood what happened, also understood that the case would be given to me and tried to go into every detail. And on the 9th of October Viktor Yakovlevich Grin, Deputy Prosecutor General ordered me to head the investigation. The resonant character of this crime was obvious, it was clear that the investigation would be under a close control of both the leadership of the country and the public. In my practice, I investigated Paul Khlebnikov’s murder and I fully realized that and was ready for this. But nevertheless…You know, it hinders a lot. People don’t understand the specifics of our work but along with this they are ready to draw far-reaching conclusions. A month passed and they complain – the killers are still free! But that was not a theft from a kiosk, that was an ordered murder which requires huge initial search work: interview of masses of people, study of huge amount of documents – in our case it meant Politkovskaya’s stories, her work documents, the contents of her computer, work with notebooks, phone. All that was necessary so that we would be able to single out the main directions of search from the huge massive of information. Yes, there was an image of the alleged killer from the outside surveillance camera. But there was not face – only a vague figure of a person who skillfully hides his appearance. All the rest had to be found grain by grain. And the journalists of Novaya Gazeta helped us a lot and keep helping. Incidentally, it’s the first time in my experience that such close cooperation with journalists took shape. Anna’s family helped a lot, especially her son Ilya. As the result, a very meticulous work has been done, huge amounts of information have been processed, information that has first to be found. There have been many trips across Russia and to other countries.
And here, I am asking to leave it in the story, I would like to thank many people. First of, the members of the investigation group. Good, young, tempered investigators, sent to the General Prosecutor’s office for solving this murder from Altai, Vologda, Moscow, Buryatia, Tver and other regions. Their attitude toward work was not formal, they were creative people with their ideas, who prompted me a lot. Operative offices: a group from Moscow Criminal Police headed by Viktor Golovanov, the chief of the Moscow Criminal Police and Igor Vasin, a group from ORB-1 of the Russian Interior Ministry headed by Yuri Karasyov and Yevgeny Kuzin, a group of the FSB employees. All of them are highly-skilled professionals. Last week they celebrated their professional holiday – the day of the criminal police. I cannot but congratulate them once again.
After a certain period of stagnation when many people quit, new people started joining the force. They were not at all worse than those who left, some were even better. However, we are still facing a lot of problems. Take the forensic tests. In the west they are done in no time, here it takes months. I needed biological tests results urgently so that I could make arrests: time was running out, the criminals were not waiting for us…
I cannot blame our experts, they are excellent professionals, maybe the best in the world. But they do not have the necessary equipment. And we could not use private labs because of the risk of information leak. Also, it costs lots of money and gives the lawyers a chance to challenge the conclusions of the experts in the court. And we should bear in mind that not only the pace of investigation but the quality of the proof of ones’ guilt or innocence depend on the work of experts.
How many people are in the investigation team now?
The team is not large, but reliable. Eight investigators and myself. All of them have been working from day one.
Is there anything special about the investigation of this case?
It required great patience and professionalism. I will repeat myself: the amount of information was too big. From the very beginning we realized that we had something… but we managed to grab this something only after a thorough analysis, after a time consuming and meticulous work.
Its even good that I was investigating Paul Klebnikov case at the same time. Strange as it may sound but this helped me to collect evidence for Anna Politkovskaya case.
It means we may assume that these two cases are connected?
They do not cross, they move tangentially. Same people who once were witnesses or are acquaintances of the witnesses or defendants in Klebnikov case come into our filed of vision. Contacts between these people – many of whom ran afoul of the law – had been established earlier which helped us in our work on Politkovskaya case. However, it is too early to speak about interrelation of these two murders.
What is the status of Paul Khlebnikov case investigation?
A separate case was opened in regard of those who are on the run from the investigation. The case is under investigation and has never been suspended. It’s a matter of principle: we have to investigate it to the end. It is important because we are speaking not only about those involved in the Klebnikov murder but also in the murder of Sergunin (former Director of the Judicial Department of Chechnya and later a Chechnya cabinet member) who was shot to death a few days before Klebnikov.
As to Dukuzov, Vakhayev, Khusnutdinov who are accused of Khlebnikov murder, they, as you know, were found non-guilty by the jury, but later on the Supreme Court returned the case for a retrial. At the moment the case is suspended because Dukuzov, quite expectedly, disappeared having presented false documents that he had been in a hospital. We are looking for him because he is on the wanted list and the court ruled in absentia that he should be taken into custody.
You are very cautious about your answers. To be honest, as a person involved in the journalist investigation of Anna’s murder I like it. Within the eleven months, till this September there were practically no information leaks. It’s unprecedented in my practice.
Our investigation team was unanimous about it: no information to be given out. Not even to friends or relatives. Secondly, everybody who were in contact with them, operatives, defense lawyers signed non-disclosure documents. If journalists succeeded to reach us by phone, the answer was always the same: “sorry guys, too early, we’ve got nothing to tell you so far”.
The only people who did not sign the non-disclosure papers were you, the Novaya journalists, despite the fact thet you possessed very serious information. But you knew perfectly well that no arrests would have been made if there had been at least a slightest leak.
It became especially clear at the end of August when leaks started. How could it happen? To what extent did massive leaks of operative materials published in Media interfere with the investigation?
The breach happened because the time for the realization of information has come: our documents were sent to courts, pre-trial detention centers, various police units and other agencies beyond our control.
Analyzing the leaks I realized: nobody knew what Garibyan was up to, but what he did immediately became common knowledge.
This is what I mean: realization (of information) involves a number of various services. Take that car, the “model four Zhig” which we put on the missing cars list. Of course we are not standing in the street with traffic batons (meaning that traffic police received information about the car). Journalists knew all details in no time, even the license plate number was named. Nevertheless, we managed to intercept the car, we found it and prevented its destruction by criminals.
A similar thing happened with Shamil Burayev’s arrest?
Same with Burayev… Where could go the document that I presented to the court? Anyway, we got him, he did not disappear, he was arrested and criminal charges were brought against him. But in fact he was warned with the help of journalists.
What is the reason for that: corruption or the lack of order?
A: We are investigating all leaks… In some cases somebody’s interest is involved but in most cases it’s the lack of order. But in any case it was very bad for the investigation.
Don’t you think that all these leaks are not accidental, that there is a specific intent, a serious attempt to interfere with the work of the investigation?
Why don’t you think it over, you know the media better than I. Was it a PR campaign of some sort? May be it was an intent or somebody just panicked… But I am not inclined to believe in global conspiracies.
When an average citizen looks at the list of detainees he is puzzled: how could MVD and FSB officers mix with the members of an ethnic criminal group? This is corruption in its worst form. Didn’t it surprise you?
Not me. At least because I know the background of their acquaintanceship, their connections. It has to be taken into account that special services and law enforcement officers meet different people in the course of their work. .. Its up to you to make conclusions, my business is to solve crimes regardless of the personality of the culprit.
During this year did you feel any kind of pressure, at least indirect?
No, I did not feel any pressure. Nothing but help: from Anna’s family, from you, from my superiors. The General Prosecutor rendered all round assistance. He followed the investigation closely, offered his advice. Honestly speaking I was very lucky working with Viktor Grin, Deputy Prosecutor general and former chief of our department Sergey Ivanov. It’s very easy to work these days in the Investigation Committee, with its chief, Aleksandr Bastyrkin and with Dmitry Dovgy, Chief of the Main Directorate.
Nobody tried to impose his own opinion or to force us to do useless work. Very good professional approach. The new chiefs asked from the very beginning: will you manage to do it yourself or need some reinforcement? I answered that at the moment I was doing fine: it was the stage of summarizing the information and two groups could only interfere with each other. This is what we agreed upon: the bosses trust the investigator –which is very important- and closely watch the case, offer their advice.
Many people wondered what was the reason for the reshuffling of the investigation team in September.
Working necessity. Arrests were made. Many people were detained and charges had to be brought in short terms. So a decision was made to reinforce the team: the then chief of the department Sergey Ivanov became the head of this team. I remained in it; one more investigator for particularly important cases was introduced into the team. But when the force-majeure work was over and the regular planned work started there was no longer need for that.
So, the changes related to the formation of the Investigation Committee did not affect the investigation of this case.
Nothing at all interfered with the work of investigators. Cases were transferred from professional to other professionals who perfectly realized that our work must not stop and there must be no muddle in it.
So, the planned work you mentioned yielded results: the arrested suspects started cooperating with the investigation.
I will say nothing to it. But the work is in progress and there are positive moments.
And now the eternal question: is there such thing as insoluble murders?
Probably there is, but I have not come across such thing.