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Her Own Death, Foretold

The armed men spent the next two hours photographing the head with their mobile phones.

The head remained there for 24 hours, after which militiamen removed it. Agents of the prosecutor general's office began investigating the scene, and local people heard one officer ask a subordinate, "Have they finished sewing the head back on yet?" Dushaev's body, with its head now sewn back on, was later brought back to the scene of the ambush.

I wrote about this in my newspaper, Novaya Gazeta. Gaibov, a Chechen state official, had given orders to members of the Russian security forces who were not subordinate to him to decapitate a body. Kadyrov, the premier, had been informed, but did not intervene. Those carrying out the decapitation were also agents of the state and had desecrated a dead body, which is a criminal act. The agents of the prosecutor general's office, which is charged with ensuring observance of the law, merely told those who had carried out the order to hurry up sewing the head back on. And all this in full view of the adults and children who live in Kurchaloi.

I reached Chechnya at exactly the same time as the issue of our newspaper with the article. The women in the crowd tried to conceal me because they were sure the Kadyrov people would shoot me on the spot if they knew I was there. They reminded me that Kadyrov has publicly vowed to murder me. He said during a meeting of his government that he had had enough, and that Politkovskaya was a condemned woman. I was told about it by members of the government.

What for? For not writing the way Kadyrov wanted? "Anybody who is not one of us is an enemy." Surkov said so, and Surkov is Ramzan Kadyrov's main supporter in Putin's entourage.

"Ramzan told me, 'She is so stupid she doesn't know the value of money. I offered her money but she didn't take it,' " my old acquaintance Buvadi Dakiev told me that same day. He is the deputy commanding officer of the pro-Kremlin Chechen OMON, a militia special purposes force.

I met Buvadi secretly. He would face difficulties if we were caught conferring. When it was time for me to leave it was already evening, and Buvadi urged me to stay in this secure location. He was afraid I would be killed.

"You mustn't go out," he told me. "Ramzan is very angry with you."

I decided to leave nevertheless. Someone was waiting for me in Grozny and we needed to talk through the night, also in secret. Buvadi offered to have me taken there in an OMON car, but that struck me as even more risky. I would be a target for Chechen fighters.

"Do they at least have guns in the house you are going to?" he asked. During the whole war I have been caught in the middle. When some threaten to kill you, you are protected by their enemies, but tomorrow the threat will come from somebody else.

Why am I going on at such length about Buvadi? Only to explain that people in Chechnya are afraid for me, and I find that very touching. They fear for me more than I fear for myself, and that is how I survive.

Why has Ramzan vowed to kill me? I once interviewed him, and printed the interview just as he gave it, complete with all his characteristic moronic stupidity, ignorance and satanic inclinations. Ramzan was sure I would completely rewrite the interview, and present him as intelligent and honorable. That is, after all, how the majority of journalists behave now, those who are "on our side."

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