Russian former detective Sergei Khadzhikurbanov, convicted for his role in the 2006 killing of investigative journalist Anna Politkovskaya, has been pardoned after fighting in Ukraine, his lawyer said on Tuesday.
Thousands of prisoners are thought to have been sent to fight in Ukraine since Moscow launched its offensive last February, with critics warning some have committed new crimes after returning from the front.
“As a special forces fighter, (Khadzhikurbanov) was invited to sign a contract to participate in the special military operation … when the contract expired, he was pardoned by presidential decree,” said lawyer Alexei Mikhalchik.
Khadzhikurbanov was one of five people jailed over the murder of Politkovskaya, who worked for the independent Novaya Gazeta newspaper before she was shot dead in the lift of her Moscow apartment block aged 48.
Politkovskaya was known for her forthright criticism of the Kremlin, denouncing alleged abuses by Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov and writing a scathing book on President Vladimir Putin’s rise to power.
The Kremlin last week acknowledged the use of prisoner recruits to fight in Ukraine and said convicts who “atone for their crime on the battlefield with blood” could be pardoned.
“They are atoning with blood in storm brigades, under bullets and under shells,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Friday.
Russia has probably recruited 100,000 people from prisons to fight in Ukraine, Olga Romanova, the head of an independent prisoners’ rights group has estimated.
Local Russian media outlets have reported several instances of released prisoners going on to commit serious offences, including murders, after having left the army.
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