Nadezhda Chaikova

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Nadezhda Chaikova (Чайкова Надежда) (1963–1996) was a correspondent for the Russian weekly Obshchaya Gazeta. A colleague of Anna Politkovskaya, she had traveled frequently to Chechnya and neighbouring regions. Near the end of the war in 1996 she was kidnapped and killed by unidentified gunmen.[1]

Biography[edit]

Historian-orientalist by education, Chaikova graduated from the historical faculty of Moscow State University. Before coming to Obshchaya Gazeta, she had worked in radio and the state news agencies ITAR-TASS and RIA Novosti.[2]

During the war in Chechnya, Chaikova was known for her exposés of Russian military atrocities and close contacts with the Chechen resistance. She was known for her hard-hitting coverage of the First Chechen War and issues such as the use of special "filtration camps" by Russian authorities to control the population. Shortly before her death, Chaikova managed to film the devastation and civilian victims in the wake of the Russian raid on the village of Samashki.[3]

Death[edit]

On March 20, 1996, Chaikova disappeared in Chechnya while on assignment; she was last seen alive near the village of Sernovodsk with a group of refugees from Samashki. Three weeks later on April 11, 1996, her body buried at a sewage pipe in the Chechen village of Gekhi was found by the village elders. Unable to identify her, three days later they buried the corpse in a corner of their local cemetery in accordance to the Chechen customs. Photos taken before her burial and a forensic examination of her body after exhumation by the local prosecutors suggest that she was blindfolded and bearing signs of severe beatings. The cause of death was determinted to be a gunshot wound to the back of the head, performed from a Makarov PM handgun while she was in kneeling position.[1][2]

According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, the killing may have been work of Russian federal troops angered at her work, in particular the filming of Samashki, or might have been ordered by the Chechen rebels acting on rumors spread by the Russian FSB security service that she was a spy. The federal government never investigated the murder,[1][3] as the criminal inquiry was soon halted by the federal Russian prosecutor's office "for lack of evidence and substance of a crime."[4] However, according to Russian special services in 2002, Chaykova was killed by people from the Department of State Security of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria.[5][6] Chaikova herself had written a letter in which she wrote: "In case I am killed or wounded, you should blame the Russian army or the Russian security services. Please do not put the blame for this on the so-called 'Dudaev's fighters'". She also did leave a video tape, later smuggled out of Chechnya and delivered to her newspaper, on which she revealed how the FSB had been repeatedly trying to turn her into an informant and that she had refused to comply. Death threats then began and soon after this she was dead.[4]

Her killing was strongly condemned by the UNESCO Director-General Federico Mayor: "It is with profound indignation that I have learned of the assassination of Nadezhda Chaikova. Her name must now be listed with those of other martyrs of independent Russian media like Vladislav Listyev and Dimitri Kholodov. In strongly condemning this murder, I remind all those who have recourse to violence that it has never solved problems but only makes them worse. I call on Russian and international public opinion to defend journalists working for independent and pluralistic media, for the sustainable development of free societies."[7]

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