Sergei Khadzhikurbanov, 55, a Moscow police officer, was convicted in 2014 of organising the murder of prominent journalist Anna Politkovskaya.
When she was murdered
She was shot dead in her apartment block on Putin’s birthday – October 7 – in 2006, aged 48.
Her death was a warped ‘birthday gift’ to Putin
A strong Kremlin critic and human rights campaigner, her death was seen as a warped ‘gift’ for the dictator from a mastermind.
She was especially strong in her criticisms of Putin’s actions in war-ravaged Chechnya.
Her killing provoked an international outcry and was one of several shocking murders of Putin critics, another being former deputy premier Boris Nemtsov who was gunned down near the Kremlin, a death which also had links to lawless Chechnya.
Putin says he didn’t give the order
Khadzhikurbanov was one of five convicted of Politkovskaya’s killing, but the question of who masterminded her murder has never been solved, although suspicions have focused on Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov and his senior henchmen.
Putin denied ordering her killing.
Khadzhikurbanov was not due to leave prison until the year 2034, but in 2022 was freed from jail to take part in Putin’s war.
Promotion in prison
He was rapidly promoted to become a frontline battalion commander.
Initially he ‘repeatedly went behind enemy lines’ as an intelligence operative.
After six months, he was pardoned by Putin, and his murder conviction was expunged.
He currently remains as a commander with Russian forces in Ukraine.
Politkovskaya’s family denounced the decision to release and pardon the killer in a statement issued by her newspaper Novaya Gazeta.