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Friday, June 20, 2008

No Justice For Politkovskaya

The Washington Post reports that, just as predicted, the Kremlin has closed the Politkovskaya investigation without apprehending the shooter or identifying the party who ordered the hit, instead attempting to claim by innuendo that it was Boris Berezovsky.

Three men were charged Wednesday with involvement in the October 2006 killing of investigative reporter Anna Politkovskaya, but investigators said nothing about who ordered the assassination or why. A man formally identified by authorities last month as the shooter remains at large, as does the unknown person who organized the murder.

Politkovskaya, a critic of the Kremlin known for crusading reports on human rights abuses in Chechnya, was shot in the lobby of her apartment building in central Moscow as she was returning home with groceries. Police immediately described it as a contract killing. The murder weapon was dropped beside the body.

The killing chilled public opinion in the West where Politkovskaya, 48, was lauded for her work. But it made little impression in Russia, drawing some derisory comments from then-president Vladimir Putin about the lack of impact the journalist had with her work in her home country.

Officials suggested that the killing was ordered by an exiled enemy of the Kremlin -- longstanding code for Boris Berezovsky, the London-based tycoon. Berezovsky denied any involvement, and Politkovskaya's colleagues said the person behind the killing was almost certainly in Russia.

Prosecutors charged Sergei Khadzhikurbanov, a former police officer, and two brothers from Chechnya, Dzhabrail Makhmudov and Ibragim Makhmudov, with involvement in the crime, but gave no details as to their alleged roles. The men have been in custody since their arrest last August. A fourth man, Pavel Ryaguzov, an officer in the FSB, the domestic security agency, was charged with extortion and abuse of office. Prosecutors said the charges against Ryaguzov relate to "separate crime," but officials previously said that he provided Politkovskaya's address to the killers.

Investigators said in May that they believe that Politkovskaya was shot by Rustam Makhmudov, the eldest of the Makhmudov brothers. He had been identified in news reports as early as March. Makhmudov remains at large and prosecutors said their investigation of him continues.

Eleven people were initially detained in connection with the killing, but since then all but those charged Wednesday have been released. A fourth Makhmudov brother was released last month, but ordered not to leave Russia.

The editor of Novaya Gazeta, the newspaper where Politkovskaya worked, welcomed Wednesday's announcement, but said the probe was far from complete. "The case has not been solved . . . this announcement does not satisfy the newsroom or members of Anna Politkovskaya's family," said Dmitry Muratov, according to Gazeta.ru daily. "We insist that this case is followed through."

Muratov also said Wednesday that leaks during the investigation had allowed Rustam Makhmudov to evade capture.

Since 2000, 14 journalists have been murdered in Russia because of their work, making the country the third deadliest in the world for journalists, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. There has been only one conviction in those cases and none of a person accused of ordering a killing, according to the New York-based advocacy group

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