Napoleonic Wars: Battle of Lützen, 2 May 1813

Ney’s function was to guard the army’s right flank, and he anticipated no trouble on 2 May. At 4 a.m. that morning Napoleon had dictated a letter to Berthier, his Chief-of-Staff, in which he gave orders for Ney to concentrate his five divisions and to send two strong reconnaissance forces to the south and toward Pegau. It is clear that Ney did not do so. Indeed, he let his men disperse to do some discreet foraging. Some of his soldiers were digging potatoes in Starsiedel, and Ney himself was with Napoleon near Markranstädt, possibly querying his morning orders, when suddenly they heard the sound of gun fire to the south. It was about 11:30 A.M. and upon Ney’s Corps was to fall the full weight of the Allied Attack.

Earlier, to the north, the first fighting of the day had occurred when Lauriston (V Corps), heading for Leipzig with General Maison’s division in the lead, had attacked General Kleist’s bridgehead at Lindenau. The bridge over the Elster between Lindenau and Leipzig caught fire, but some light infantry found a ford and dashed across. There were still two Prussian guns in the highway firing on the French infantry, but a Battalion of the 153rd of the Line rushed upon them and pursued the enemy into the city. Lauriston supported them with the rest of the regiment and with the 152st. Kleist thereupon withdrew to Paunsdorf, a village situated three miles east of Leipzig.

The second phase of the battle-that on Ney’s front-began when Blü rode up to Wittgenstein on the plateau about one and a quarter miles from Gross Gӧrschen on the road to Pegau. The Prussian commander saluted  and asked permission to attack. ‘With gods help,’ replied Wittgenstein, and Blücher launched his men northwards towards Kaja and Gross Gӧrschen, with Klix’s brigade leading. Leiutenant-Colonel (later General) Karl von Müffling, who had reconnoitered the villages round Kaja, had reported that there were only about 2,000 French troops in the area. It came, therefore, as a rude surprise to the Allies when they discovered that they were opposed by a whole division. Even so, had they pushed on with the bayonet they might have carried the villages at the first rush. In the event, Wittgenstein halted the attack 800 yards shot of Gross Gӧrschen.

The Allies opened a terrible cannonade of 45 guns, which is said to have lasted 40 minutes, in which time they could easily have got off 4,000 rounds. Souham, commanding the 8th Division of Ney’s corps, replied as best he could with his 12 6-pounders and four howitzers, but his batteries were enfiladed and three of his guns were hit. The French gunners were compelled to withdraw. Deprived of artillery support the French fell back behind Gross Gӧrschen, which was taken by Klix’s Prussians. Souham’s division was now in position between that village and Kaja, along with Lamour’s brigade. Here they sustained a frontal attack by the Prussians, while two Russian columns sought to turn the flanks of their position. Supported only by the remains of their divisional artillery, the two brigades held out for more than an hour, but were eventually obliged to retire behind Kaja. Help was to arrive, but it would be long in coming. The Allied attack had no part in Napoleon’s calculations, and for a considerable time the Emperor remained unconvinced of its seriousness.

Thus, having reviewed MacDonald’s XI Corps near Markranstädt soon after 11:00 A.M., Napoleon had then watched from afar Laurison’s attack on Lindenau. MacDonald in his RECOLLECTIONS describes the sequence of events. ‘The Emperor, believing that all the enemy’s forces were collected at Leipzig, sent thither General Lauriston (V Corps), who commanded the left. He came up to me, and gave me orders to support him if necessary; but at that moment he received intelligence that the allies, who had debouched from Pegau, were advancing towards us. The Emperor would not believe it, because he was firmly convinced that their main force was at Leipzig. Marshal Ney, who was with him, confirmed him in that idea, and declared he had noticed nothing unusual on the Elster.’  Napoleon could see power smoke and distant columns, but he was convinced that the allies could not mount a serious attack until the next day, and said to Ney ‘Go. You will see it is no more than a reconnaissance.’  However, as the firing increased in violence Napoleon ordered Ney to hasten back to his corps and soon afterwards followed him.

Ney galloped off, flat out, to Starsiedel. It was 10 miles, but even if he stopped briefly to give orders to his divisions in Lützen he was probably there by about 1 P.M. General van Dedem, a brigade commander, saw him examine the enemy and then, closing a telescope with a snap, heard him say to one of his ADC’s, ‘Go and tell the Emperor that it is really is a battle, and a battle such as he has never seen before.’ In due course the emperor gave out his orders and placed himself behind Girard’s division of the III Corps on the plateau which dominates Kaja and Starsiedel.

The Emperor’s plan, rapidly formulated, was that III Corps, with the Guard in reserve, should hold Kaja and the surrounding villages, whilst the corps on the flanks should close in and crush the Allies in a hastily improvised double envelopment. MacDonald and Lauriston were ordered to come up on the left of Ney. The Emperor went himself to the head of the Guard in rear of centre of the army, supporting Ney’s right. Marmont (VI Corps) with his three divisions was to come up on Ney’s right, and Bertrand (IV Corps) was ordered to debouch on the rear of the Allied army from the south-west.

Excellent though these dispositions were, they needed some time to develop. It was vital that Ney’s corps in the centre hold its ground. Ney lost no time in launching a counter-attack. At the very outset his horse was killed by a cannon-ball, and he himself was hit in the leg by a musket ball. These misfortunes did not prevent his exercising command. Girard’s division moved off to support Souham’s retreating infantry, whose flanks were now threatened by the Prussians reserve cavalry. Saluted with grapeshot, these last elected not to charge at this juncture. Girard, leading his division forward, was soon dismounted and wounded twice. Covered with blood, he seized the eagle of the regiment and led its grenadiers towards the Prussian batteries crying, ‘It is here that every brave Frenchman must conquer or die!’ A third bullet pierced his thigh. ‘Take command’ he said to General van Dedem, ‘I can do no more.’

Grape spewed on all sides; Prussian cavalry charged several times, but could make no impression. The French divisional artillery ran out of ammunition and van Dedem had to send the guns to the rear. An engineer, Colonel Simon Bernard, one of the Emperor’s ADC’s, galloped up amidst a terrible fire and reconnoitered gun positions for the artillery of the Guard, which did marvels. Bernard also brought van Dedem orders to hold on at all costs. By this time the infantry had run out of cartridges; resorting to the bayonet, they advanced against the Prussian guns. Meanwhile Brenier’s division had come up, debouching to the left of the village of Kaja, but was repulsed. By now Ricard’s division was also in action, but it too was checked, and the survivors of Girard’s men were carried backwards by the withdrawal of the other two divisions. The Prussians had reinforced their attack by sending in Ziethen’s brigade (equivalent to a French division) and at about the 2 P.M. the end of the second phase of the battle found Ney’s III Corps just hanging on to Kaja, with the Allies in possession of Gross Gӧrschen, Klein Gӧrschen and Rahna. In murderous fighting some of these villages had changed hands several times. By then not only had Ney and Girard been wounded, but in the 8th Division Souham, his Chief-of-Staff, de Contamie, and both brigadiers had been hit. On the Allied side Scharnhorst, the Prussian Chief-of-Staff, had been wounded (he died 28 June).

Ney’s cavalry brigade, weak in numbers thought it was, distinguished itself. At the beginning of the action several squadrons of Cossacks came slipping in between Kaja and the 10th Division, now commanded by van Dedem, and fell upon the park of the corps artillery and baggage to the right rear of the village. They had already carried off three guns and some caissons when a squadron of the 10th Hussars charged and routed them, recovering the Cossacks’ trophies. During the rest of the day Ney’s cavalry brigade was to make several more successful charges.

The situation in the French centre was still far from encouraging when Marmont’s VI Corps some 20,000 strong, came up into the line on the right of Ney. At this juncture the Prussian infantry had taken Klein Gӧrschen for the second time, and Rahna. Several brilliant charges by the Prussian cavalry had contributed to this success, and the Prussians Guards had followed up by hurling the French back beyond Kaja, which the latter had set afire. It was in this desperate fighting that, at about 4 P.M. Blücher had his horse shot under him, and was wounded in the side by a bullet. He sent orders to Yorck to take over, and rode to the rear to find a surgeon.

Napoleon supported Ney with Bonet’s division of VI Corps and with part of the Young Guard, who had followed Marmont along the Weissenfels-Lützen road. Numbers of conscripts of the II Corps, unnerved by the fearful cannonade, had taken to their heels. Major Chalapowski of the 1st Regiment of Light Horse (Old Guard) later recalled that his unit was ‘halted between the road and the village of Kaja, and deployed on a line facing the village in a field where remnants of Ney’s green troops were still in flight. The Emperor ordered us to bar their passage between our squadrons….’ This done, Napoleon road amongst his shattered infantry, exhorting them to rally. ‘This,’ wrote Marmont (ignoring, evidently, Toulon and Lodi), ‘was probably the day, of his whole career, on which Napoleon incurred the greatest personal danger on the field of battle. He exposed himself constantly, leading the defeated men of III Corps back to the charge.’ Certainly Napoleons personal leadership had not lost its magic. The cry ‘Vive l’Empereur!’ was heard on every side. The Saxon Odeleben wrote that ‘hardly a wounded man passed before Bonaparte without saluting him with the accustomed VIVAT.’

Some time was still to pass before the two corps of MacDonald (12,000 Strong) and Bertrand (some 20,000) were in position to make themselves felt. Bertrand, indeed, alarmed by the approach of Miloradovich from Zeitz, in the south halted from about 1 P.M. until after 3 P.M. and took some time prodding to make him resume his advance.

Much, therefore, depended on Marmont’s VI Corps, which was now in the line in and around Starsiedel. Captain Barrès of the 47th Regiment of the Line related. ‘At last we moved forward; our division was on the extreme. In close column we went along the road and moved straight on the village, to the right of Starsiedel.’ On their left they passed the monument to King Gustavus Adolphus, who had fallen in 1632. ‘In front of Starsiedel we were saluted by the whole artillery of the enemy army and horribly cut up. Threatened by the cavalry we formed square and….received incessant charges which we always successfully repulsed.’

Meanwhile MacDonald’s XI Corps was beginning to make an impact. According to him, his men went forward at the double. It was high time. Ney’s III Corps had lost much ground, and some Allied cavalry had got around their left flank. Seeing the approach of XI Corps, the Allies turned to retire, but not before MacDonald had time to get 30 guns into position, and they had to gallop back through his grape.

During this phase of fighting Marmont’s corps on the right took a heavy battering. In Barrès’s words, ‘At last, after three and a half to four hours of stubborn fighting, having lost half our officers and men and had our guns dismounted and ammunition caissons blown up, we retired in good order….as on parade.’ They fell back behind Starsiedel, Major Fabre conducting the movement with admirable coolness and presence of mind. Barrès, himself was hit twice, found that his company had suffered 44 casualties. By then it must have been nearly 6 o’clock, and Winzingerodes’s Allied corps had come up in to line on Blücher left.

MacDonald continued to press in upon the Allied right and ‘forced them into apposition covered by a little artificial canal used for floating wood.’ They crossed a little valley, not without loss, and, crowning the height, saw the whole plain outstretched before them, ‘but without cavalry it would have been unsafe to venture there.’

The Allies for their part were short of infantry, and if they managed to hold Marmont, and Bertrand when at last he came up unto the line, it was by murderous cannonades, interspersed with brave and energetic cavalry charges, which cost the French thousands of causalities. Prince Wilhelm of Prussia executed several charges against the French infantry squares posted near Starsiedel. The Prussian cavalry are credited with breaking two squares and taking several guns.

It was approaching 6 P.M. when Count Wittgenstein threw in his last reserves. Outnumbered though he was, he ordered Eugen of Württenberg with his Russian infantry to advance against the French left. But it was all the Russians could do to hold their more numberous opponents at bay. MacDonlad’s approach was fiercely greeted. ‘Suddenly,’ he wrote, ‘the fire ceased all along the front of the enemy, and was directed towards us; the enemy sent forward their cavalry reserves, composed of the Guards of the sovereigns of Russia and Prussia. Thrice they attempted to break our squares, but in vain; each time they were driven back with loss; and the third time in such confusion as must have given great advantage to our cavalry had we possessed any.’ General Latour-Maubourg, with a few squadrons, was on MacDonald’s left, but Prince Eugène remained mindful of Napoleon’s orders to husband his cavalry and did not wish to hazard them, despite MacDonald’s entreaties; so a good opportunity slipped away. Prince Eugène eventually got as far as Eisdorf, but not before 9 P.M., when the fighting had died down.

In the French centre, meanwhile, climax of the battle was reached between 6:30 and 7:30. An hour or so earlier the corps of MacDonald and Bertrand, pressing in on the flanks of the Allies, had compelled them to redouble their efforts against the French centre. The village of Kaja had been carried once again and several battalions had fled in disorder. Once more it was the emperor himself who had rallied them.

Napoleon now decided that the moment of crisis had arrived. He ordered Mortier to take 16 battalions of the Young Guard and storm Kaja. At the same time he ordered his ADC, General Baron Antoine Drouot, to build up a battery of 80 pieces in order to support the French centre. Deployed behind Drouot’s guns would be the six battalions of the Old Guard drawn up like four redoubts, and all of the cavalry, some 3,000 sabres. Drouot and two other artillery generals, Desvaux and Dulauloy, went off at the gallop, and soon their guns were thundering forth cannon-balls at a rate of amounting to 160 rounds a minute.

The Emperor then led forward his Young Guard. They did not show much élan at first, and van Dedem heard him say, ‘Know that our fate is decided; if we are destined to die, perish we must. EN AVANT!’  At about 6:30 P.M. the columns of the Young Guard, 10,000 strong, carried Kaja and pushed on, drums beating the charge, towards Gross Gӧrschen. Joseph Dufraisne of the 1st Fusilier-Grenadiers (Young Guard) tells us that cannon-balls and shells fell like hail on their column. He was horrified when one dismounted Mortier, took off two legs in the first company and his lieutenant’s arm-the wound proved mortal-before killing a comrade at his side. Still the casualties of the Young Guard (1,069) were few indeed compared with those of Ney’s III Corps (more than 17,000).

Mortier’s success was followed up with a general advance by the French. The movement of the Young Guard on Gross Gӧrschen had disengaged Ney’s left and he ordered General Ricard to attack the little wood beyond Kaja where the enemy was still showing a bold front. The tried troops set off at some speed, but after a few hundred paces were held up by musketry and artillery fire. Five successive attacks were made in vain. Then Ricard collected all the officers in one platoon, and placing them at the head of his disordered troops, made them swear upon their swords that they would get to the wood or perish. They rushed forward with cries of ‘VIVE l’EMPEREUR!’ The allies were routed and pursued for two miles. By this time it was night and Ricard’s exhausted regiments bivouacked in squares.

The advance of the Young Guard, brilliant though it was, left Gross Gӧrschen in the hands of the Prussians. As darkness fell the battlefield was lit by burning villages. The cannonading continued, albeit spasmodically; the musketry gradually died down. The Allied sovereigns, who had watched the fighting from a small hill bear Werben, eventually quit the field about 9 P.M. But as late as 10 P.M. the Allied army was still in position with its right situated at Gross Gӧrschen and it’s left near Muschwitz.

Both armies were in considerable confusion. The debris of Ney’s 8th and 10th Divisions spent the night in front of the village of Kaja, its 39th regiment taking up a position before Klein Gӧrschen. In Lützen Captain Coignet had formed a wagon lagger with his horses inside and a garrison of the Gendarmerie d’Élite (Old Guard). The Emperor at this time was composing his Bulletin da la Grande Armée, in which he tells us that this ‘brilliant day….like a thunderclap, has pulverized the chimerical hopes and all the calculations of the destruction and dismemberment of the Empire. The shadowy dreams nursed at the Court of St. James throughout the winter find themselves undone in an instant as with the Gordian Knot by the sword of Alexander.’ To a staff officer he remarked, ‘I am once more master of Europe.’

Although it looked well enough in the Bulletin, Lützen was far from being the decisive victory which Napoleon had sought. The Allies, though greatly outnumbered, had attacked him with astonishing vigour, had badly mauled III Corps and given VI Corps a severe fight. Threatened by skillful if slow pincher movement, they had extricated themselves and departed in generally good order, having inflicted a great many more causalities than they suffered themselves. The reborn Prussian Army had done particularly well. “These animals have learned something,’ was Napoleon’s own comment, while Count Nesselrode, the Russian statesman, wrote, ‘The Prussian troops have covered themselves with glory; they have become once more the Prussians of Frederick.’

The allies loses may have amounted to 15,000 men, the majority being Prussian. Blücher and Yorck had 8,400 casualties, and Prince Eugen of Württemberg had 1,600. The French losses were in the region of 25,000, the great majority being in III Corps, which according to the parade states had 17,633 fewer men on 5 May than on 25 April.

The Battle of Lützen left Napoleon Leipzig and battalions of corpses. The Emperor had reason to be satisfied with Marmont, MacDonald and Mortier. To an ADC of Lauriston he said on 3 May, ‘What were you doing yesterday, when we were fighting here? You were warming your bottoms in the sun.’ This was a hardly fair. With orders to take Leipzig, Lauruston had done so by 3 P.M. and redeployed to intervene at Lützen if necessary. Bertrand’s over caution has already been mentioned. Prince Eugène had prevented Latour-Maubourg’s 1st Cavalry Corps from charging the Allied right, but as Napoleon had given him strict written orders to husband the cavalry, he cannot be blamed for this.

In reviewing the conduct of the various marshals, it is particularly difficult to account for the way Ney handled his corps. There can be no question that on the morning of the 2nd he received orders in writing to concentrate his corps. But he did no such thing. Had Wittgenstein seen 48,000 foot drawn up around Kaja at noon, would he even have launched his attack? It seems highly improbable. Ney was certainly the bravest of the brave, but to disregard the Emperors orders completely was a thing so extraordinary that it demands some explanation. The clues are perhaps to be found in Ney’s character and his relations with the Emperor. He was one of those men whose courage and energy were apparent only when he was in action. Otherwise he was inclined to be guided by his entourage. He was also retiring and communitive. He got on well with MacDonald, but none of the other marshals. He was on bad terms with Napoleon’s Chief-of-Staff, Berthier, which must have led to confusion. Moreover, deep down, he detested the Emperor. That, at any rate, is the picture General van Dedem paints of his chief, and though it may be to somber, he knew the Marshal well. One suspects that Ney went off on the morning of the battle to find the Emperor and question his orders. He thought that there was not going to be any action that day, and he did not wish to harass his tired troops. Scattered about the countryside, they would find more potatoes than if they were concentrated at Kaja. Ney was no great disciplinarian and was unlikely to discharge his men from a little marauding.

On the other hand, it was Ney’s refusal to concentrate his forces that had encouraged Blücher to attack with such vigor. This in turn had caused Napoleon to devise his neat pincher movement. The latter had not quite come off, but the account of it looked very well in the Bulletin. The Emperor had good cause to be pleased with the Prince of Moskva: he had done the thing, but for all the wrong reasons.

To a commander-in-chief and a private solider a battle may appear in a somewhat different light. Napoleon announced Lützen as a victory. Francois-Joseph Dresse of Herve, near Liège, thanked god that he had managed to survive when his battalion in Ricard’s division of II Corps had suffered heavy losses. He does not scruple to describe Lützen as a defeat.

The people of Lützen were generous. Captain Coignet saw some 60 young girls and boys go out from the town and carry in the French wounded. Barron Larrey, whose flying ambulances arrived from Merseburg at midday, wrote, ‘Dead and dying covered the battlefield. We gathered up the enemy wounded as well as our own. After the battle, the inhabitants of Lützen gave welcomed aid to our casualties. They brought linen, lint, and food on to the field and provided means of transport. They then received these men into their town and spared no effort in caring for them.’ In the next 48 hours Larrey performed or supervised 365 operations.

Napoleon wrote of Lützen. ‘This is like the battles in Egypt. Good infantry supported by artillery must suffice.’ Faced by superior Allied cavalry, the French infantry was compelled to keep forming square. In square, however it offered marvelous targets for the numerous Allied guns. For once it was the French who were outnumbered in artillery. Tormassov and Miloradovich arrived too late to take part in the battle. But their eventual presence, as well as a lack of cavalry, prevented Naopleon from taking full advantage of his slender victory.

FRENCH (Napoleon) 133,000

ARMY OF THE ELBE (Prince Eugène) TOTAL=30,000

Lauriston (V Corps=10,00); Latour-Maubourg (I Cavalry Corps=8,000); MacDonald (XI Corps=12,000)

ARMY OF THE MAIN (Napoleon) TOTAL= 103,000

Ney (III Corps=48,000); Guard=15,000; Marmont (VI Corps=20,000); Bertrand (IV Corps=20,000)

ALLIES (Wittgemstein) 86,000

Kleist =6,000; Wittgenstein =24,000; Blücher =25,000; Yorck =8,000; Winzingerode =14,000; Miloradovich =9,000


SOURCE: NAPOLEON: The Last Campaigns 1813-15
BY: James Lawford
CONTRIBUTOR: Martin F. Elkins


This Day In History, October 7th: Anna Politkovskaya assassination

Anna Politkovskaya assassination

Spontaneous citizens’ memorial at entrance to Anna Politkovskaya’s Moscow apartment 10 October 2006
The assassination of Anna Politkovskaya (born 1958), the Russian journalist, writer and human rights activist, took place on 7 October 2006. She was well known for her opposition to the Chechen conflict and criticism of Russian President Vladimir Putin.[1][2] She authored several books about the Chechen wars, as well as Putin’s Russia, and received numerous prestigious international awards for her work. Her murder, which occurred on Vladimir Putin’s birthday, was widely perceived as a contract killing, sparking a strong international reaction.

Politkovskaya’s book, Putin’s Russia: Life in a Failing Democracy, strongly criticized Putin’s federal presidency, including his pursuit of the Second Chechen War. She accused Putin and the Russian secret service FSB of stifling all civil liberties in order to establish a Soviet-style dictatorship, but admitted that “it is we who are responsible for Putin’s policies”:

“Society has shown limitless apathy…. As the Chekists have become entrenched in power, we have let them see our fear, and thereby have only intensified their urge to treat us like cattle. The KGB respects only the strong. The weak it devours. We of all people ought to know that.”
She also wrote:

“We are hurtling back into a Soviet abyss, into an information vacuum that spells death from our own ignorance. All we have left is the internet, where information is still freely available. For the rest, if you want to go on working as a journalist, it’s total servility to Putin. Otherwise, it can be death, the bullet, poison, or trial—whatever our special services, Putin’s guard dogs, see fit.”[3]

“People often tell me that I am a pessimist, that I don’t believe in the strength of the Russian people, that I am obsessive in my opposition to Putin and see nothing beyond that,” she opens an essay titled Am I Afraid?, finishing it—and the book—with the words: “If anybody thinks they can take comfort from the ‘optimistic’ forecast, let them do so. It is certainly the easier way, but it is the death sentence for our grandchildren.”[4][5]

Death threats
In September 2004, while traveling to Beslan, Russia during the Beslan school hostage crisis to help in negotiations with the hostage-takers, Politkovskaya fell violently ill and lost consciousness after drinking tea. She had been reportedly poisoned,[6] with some accusing the former Soviet secret police poison facility.[7]
In December 2005, while attending a conference on freedom of the press organized by Reporters Without Borders in Vienna, Austria, Politkovskaya said: “People sometimes pay with their lives for saying aloud what they think. In fact, one can even get killed for giving me information. I am not the only one in danger. I have examples that prove it.”[8] She often received death threats as a result of her work,[9] including being threatened with rape and experiencing a mock execution after being arrested by the military in Chechnya.[10]
According to Russian state security officer Alexander Litvinenko, Politkovskaya asked him if her life was in imminent danger before the assassination. He confirmed the danger and recommended her to escape from Russia immediately. He also asserted that former presidential candidate Irina Hakamada warned Politkovskaya about threats to her life coming from Putin. Hakamada later denied her involvement in passing any specific threats, and said that she warned Politkovskaya only in general terms more than a year before her death.[11] It remains unclear whether the warning by Litvinenko was related to an earlier statement made by Russian oligarch Boris Berezovsky, who claimed that former Deputy Prime Minister of Russia Boris Nemtsov received word from Hakamada that Putin threatened her and like-minded colleagues in person. According to Berezovsky, Putin uttered that Hakamada and her colleagues “will take in the head immediately, literally, not figuratively” if they “open the mouth” about the Russian apartment bombings.[12]

On 7 October 2006, Politkovskaya was found shot dead in the elevator of her apartment block in central Moscow.[13][14] Police said a Makarov pistol and four shell casings were found beside her body. Reports indicated a contract killing, as she was shot four times, once in the head. It was unclear at the time who ordered the killing.[15][16][17]

The funeral was held on Tuesday, 10 October 2006, at 2:30 p.m. at the Troyekurovsky Cemetery. Before Politkovskaya was laid to rest, more than 1,000 people filed past her coffin to pay their last respects. Dozens of Politkovskaya’s colleagues, public figures and admirers of her work gathered for the funeral. No high-ranking Russian officials could be seen at the ceremony.[18]

The European Union and many governments condemned the murder of Politkovskaya, calling for a thorough investigation into the crime by Russian authorities.

Soon after her death, Vitaly Yaroshevsky, deputy editor of Novaya Gazeta, where she worked, said: “The first thing that comes to mind is that Anna was killed for her professional activities. We don’t see any other motive for this terrible crime.”[19] He said Politkovskaya gave an interview to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty the week before her death in which she said she was a witness in a criminal case against Ramzan Kadyrov in connection with abductions in Chechnya—a case based on her reporting. In that same interview, she called Kadyrov the “Stalin of our days”.[20]

On 8 October 2006, hundreds rallied in downtown Moscow to protest the murder of Politkovskaya and the recent crackdown on ethnic Georgians.[21] The demonstration was described by the Moscow-based, liberal radio station Echo of Moscow as “the largest protest rally of the opposition recently held in Russia.”[22] A day after the murder, there was a demonstration and memorial consisting of 500 people in Moscow as well as 300 people gathering in St. Petersburg. Further rallies and vigils took place in other Russian cities, including St. Petersburg, Yekaterinburg, Saratov and Krasnoyarsk, as well as London, Paris, New York, and Washington.[23]

In addition, more than 1,000 people (later estimation: more than 3,000) gathered at the Russian embassy in Helsinki, Finland to pay their respects to Politkovskaya. The demonstration was silent, with people holding candles. Two of Politkovskaya’s books have been published in Finland as translated editions.[24]

On 10 October 2006, 2,000 demonstrators called Putin a “murderer” during his visit to Dresden, Germany.[25][26][27] Putin replied:

“This journalist was indeed a sharp critic of the present Russian authorities…but the degree of her influence over political life in Russia was extremely insignificant. She was well-known in journalistic circles, among human rights activists, in the West. I repeat, her influence over political life in Russian was minimal.[28] And in my opinion murdering such a person certainly does much greater damage from the authorities’ point of view, authorities that she strongly criticized, than her publications ever did.”[29][30][31]

Possibly related events in the aftermath of her death
Politkovskaya’s assassination was discussed by the media in connection with the deaths of other critics of Putin,[32] including her colleague from Novaya Gazeta Yuri Shchekochikhin,[33][34] Russian Duma members Galina Starovoitova and Sergei Yushenkov, and journalist Artyom Borovik:[35]

A week after the assassination, Alexander Litvinenko accused Putin of sanctioning the murder. Two weeks after this statement, Litvinenko was poisoned with radioactive polonium. Two days before his death on 24 November 2006, he wrote a statement, in case he “does not make it”. He said:

“Name the bastard. Anna Politkovskaya did not do it, so I will, for both of us.[36] You may succeed in silencing one man but the howl of protest from around the world will reverberate, Mr Putin, in your ears for the rest of your life. May God forgive you for what you have done, not only to me but to beloved Russia and its people”.

According to some reports, Litvinenko tried to investigate Politkovskaya’s death.[37][38] He was also writing a book about FSB activities including concentration camps in Chechnya. In that regard, he had frequent contacts with Politkovskaya.[39] Litvinenko’s poisoning was remarkably similar to the thallium poisoning of KGB defector Nikolai Khokhlov,[40] whom Politkovskaya had interviewed for Novaya Gazeta.[41]

On 18 November 2006, former pro-government Chechen commander and FSB officer Movladi Baisarov was shot dead in Moscow. Allegedly, Baisarov intended to give evidence that proved his political opponents’ guilt of kidnapping and murder, and give testimony about Politkovskaya’s assassination. Novaya Gazeta was preparing a publication linking Baisarov’s murder with that of Anna Politkovskaya. Journalist Vyacheslav Izmailov, who worked closely with Politkovskaya on her stories about human rights abuses in Chechnya, said former Grozny Mayor Beslan Gantamirov had come to Novaya Gazeta’s offices two weeks after she was murdered and said armed men close to Ramzan Kadyrov had been sent to Moscow with orders to kill three people: Politkovskaya, Baisarov and Gantamirov.[42][43]

On 20 November 2006, former KGB officer Oleg Gordievsky asserted that the murders of Zelimkhan Yandarbiev, Yuri Shchekochikhin, Politkovskaya, Litvinenko and others meant that FSB had returned to the old KGB practice of government-ordered political assassinations.[44][45] Gordievsky was poisoned in November 2007, allegedly by a Russian agent.[46]

On 24 November 2006, the day of Litvinenko’s death, Russian economist and politician Yegor Gaidar alleged he was poisoned after drinking a cup of tea.[47]

It still remains unclear who ordered the assassination. Some speculations were fueled by the fact that she was killed on Putin’s birthday. Historian Yuri Felshtinsky and political scientist Vladimir Pribylovsky commented [48] that none of the official suspects had personal motives to kill Politkovskaya. This led them to suggest several possible contractors: “the central leadership of the secret service – as a birthday present for Putin” or “Ramzan Kadyrov, also as a birthday present for Putin, in the hopes of receiving a present in return – the presidency of Chechnya (the hope was realized)”.

On the other hand Ramzan Kadyrov alleged that oligarch Boris Berezovsky was behind Politkovskaya’s killing. “We would need Politkovskaya today to show what she used to say, and what there is now. People arrive and walk freely around Grozny. A normal life! How could our enemies use Politkovskaya effectively? By killing her. Who did it? Berezovsky, I believe,” Kadyrov was quoted as saying in April 2009.[49]

Case developments
First arrests and official announcements
In late August 2007, police arrested ten suspects believed to have been involved in Politkovskaya’s murder. Russia’s Prosecutor-General Yuri Chaika stated that the plotters’ aim was to start a crisis to destabilize Russia. The suspects included members of a Chechen organized crime group, as well as a number of former FSB agents.[50]

On 28 August 2007, Chaika met with Putin and FSB director Nikolai Patrushev, during which he made an official announcement:

“Our investigation has led us to conclude that only people living abroad could be interested in killing Politkovskaya…Forces interested in de-stabilising the country, in stoking crisis…in discrediting the national leadership, provoking external pressure on the country, could be interested in this crime. Anna Politkovskaya knew who ordered her killing. She met him more than once.”[51]

Chaika also said that Politkovskaya’s killers were probably connected with the murders of Central Bank deputy chairman Andrei Kozlov and U.S. journalist Paul Khlebnikov.[52] The person noted by Chaika as organizer of the murder was identified in the media as Boris Berezovsky.[52] Chaika’s statement was supported by Andrei Lugovoi, who had been indicted by a British court with regard to the Alexander Litvinenko poisoning. Lugovoi said Berezovsky had organized the murders of Politkovskaya, Alexander Litvinenko, and the attempted murder of Yelena Tregubova.[53]

Suspected killer identified
On 28 March 2008, it was reported that the suspected killer of journalist Anna Politkovskaya was identified.[54] The suspect was identified as 30-years old Chechen Rustam Makhmudov, a brother of Ibragim and Dzhabrail Makhmudovs who have been suspected on complicity to the murder.[55][56]

However, on 3 April 2008, Investigating Committee of the Persecution Office of Russia Dmitry Dovgy (suspended of his duty under allegations of taking bribes, though the interview was taken before his suspension) told the press that he is convinced that “Politkovskaya’s murder was masterminded by Boris Berezovsky[57] and carried out by Khozh-Ahmed Noukhayev”.[58] Dovgy said that the murder was aimed at undermining confidence in law and order in Russia. He said the organizers [of Politkovskaya’s murder] “wanted to show that well-known people can be killed here in broad daylight, with the law enforcement agencies seemingly unable to solve such crimes”. Berezovsky dismissed the accusations in an interview with Ekho Moskvy radio. “This is another attempt to distract the investigation from searching for the real person behind the murder,” he said.

On 4 April 2008, Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta reported that all suspects in the case are members of Russian special services, and someone in the government protects the killers by openly disclosing the secret materials of the investigation.[59] The report discussed the involvement of Nukayev who allegedly also organized the assassination of Paul Khlebnikov. According to this publication, the traces of the killers lead to the gang of Maxim Lazovsky,[59] a former FSB officer who allegedly organized a bombing in Moscow in 1994, and was later involved in the 1999 Russian apartment bombings.[60][61]

On 18 June 2008, the investigating committee at the Moscow prosecutor general’s office announced that the preliminary investigation was concluded, and three people, Sergey Khadzhikurbanov, Dzhabrail Makhmudov and Ibragim Makhmudov, were set to stand trial for murder. Another suspect, Pavel Ryaguzov, has been charged with lesser offenses, including abuse of office and extortion.[61][62] Colleagues who were close to Politkovskaya at Novaya Gazeta say the mystery is far from over however. Deputy editor of Novaya Gazeta magazine, Sergey Sokolov said: “The investigation is finished in regards to only the three people in question. But as for other people involved – the ones who have been identified and those who are still to be identified, like the killer and the person who ordered the murder – they are set apart into a separate group. The investigation will be continued.” Russian prosecutors said their investigation against Rustam Makhmudov, who a month ago they alleged shot Politkovskaya, was ongoing.[62]

On 1 July 2008, Russia’s chief investigator Alexander Bastrykin confirmed that Rustam Makhmudov, the man believed by authorities to have fired the fatal shot, was hiding in western Europe. Bastrykin did not publicly identify the specific country, but said it was known by Russian authorities. Unconfirmed Russian media reports suggest that Moscow has requested Makhmudov’s extradition from Belgium.[63] At the end of May 2011, Makhmudov was arrested in Chechenya.[64]

Other arrests
On 16 July 2012, Russian officials announced that a former police officer, Dmitry Pavlyuchenkov, a lieutenant colonel in the police when Politkovskaya had been assassinated, was charged with planning the murder of Politkovskaya.[65]

Moscow-based journalist Yulia Latynina suggested in February 2009 that the mastermind of the assassination might have been people around the former President of Chechnya Alu Alkhanov.[66][67]

The trial
On 2 October 2008, the case against Khadzhikurbanov and Dzhabrail and Ibragim Makhmudov was sent to court by the prosecutors.[68]

On 25 November 2008, it was reported that the murder was ordered by a Russian politician. The defence lawyer representing the four men charged over Politkovskaya’s murder told reporters that the unnamed politician, based in Russia, was mentioned in the case files.

The deputy Editor-in-chief editor of Novaya Gazeta Sergei Sokolov publicly asserted in court that the suspected hitman Rustam Makhmudov had been wanted for other crimes by the police since 1998, but had been protected by the Russian domestic secret service (FSB) and, personally, by FSB Colonel Pavel Ryaguzov who provided him with a forged passport. Ryaguzov was another suspect in the case. An attorney for Ryaguzov objected to this disclosure on the grounds that the alleged connections of Makmudov with FSB represent a “state secret”.[69]

On 19 February 2009 the trial ended with the unanimous jury acquittal of Dzhabrail Makhmudov, Ibragim Makhmudov, and Sergei Khadzhikurbanov. The prosecutor Vera Pashkovskaya stated that the verdict would be appealed.[70]

Commenting on the end of the trial against a few suspects in Moscow yesterday, Andrew McIntosh, Chairman of the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly’s Sub-Committee on the Media and Rapporteur on media freedom, expressed his deep frustration at the lack of progress in investigating the murder of Anna Politkovskaya on 7 October 2006 and the inability of the Russian authorities to find her killers: “Two years ago, in its Resolution 1535 (2007), the Assembly called on the Russian Parliament to closely monitor the progress in the criminal investigations regarding the murder of Anna Politkovskaya and hold the authorities accountable for any failures to investigate or prosecute. The closure of the trial yesterday can only be regarded as a blatant failure. I call on the Russian authorities and Parliament to relaunch a proper investigation and shed light on this murder, which undermines not only freedom of expression in Russia, but also its democratic foundation based on the rule of law. There are no excuses for these flawed investigations into murders of politically critical journalists writing against corruption and crime within government, such as the murders of Georgy Gongadze in Ukraine in 2000 and Paul Klebnikov in Moscow in 2004.”[71]

The BBC comment on the trial’s failure said: “The alleged killer was somehow tipped off and was able to flee the country. And it has never emerged why Anna Politkovskaya had been under surveillance by the FSB for at least two months before her murder. Very quickly the investigation ground to a halt. As soon as it became clear that the FSB was involved, a veil of secrecy descended.”[72]

On 25 June 2009, the Supreme Court overturned the no-guilty verdicts and ordered a retrial for three men on charges related to her murder.[73][74]



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