Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 28 August 2014

Charges in Russia journalist murder

New charges have been laid against several people over the death of Anna Politkovskaya (AP)
Russian prime minister Vladimir Putin said Anna Politkovskaya's death did more to harm Russia than her articles did

Russian investigators have marked the fifth anniversary of journalist Anna Politkovskaya's murder by filing new charges against suspects involved in the killing, but have remained silent about who might have ordered her murder.

Ms Politkovskaya, a sharp critic of the Kremlin and its policies in Chechnya, was gunned down in the lift of her Moscow apartment building on October 7, 2006. The attack drew worldwide attention to violence against journalists in Russia and caused widespread suspicions of government involvement.

Russia's leading investigative body said it is filing formal charges against Lom-Ali Gaitukayev, a native of Chechnya accused of organising the killing. It said it will also bring new accusations against the suspected gunman, Rustam Makhmudov, and several other suspects.

Makhmudov's two brothers and another suspect, former Moscow police officer Sergei Khadzhikurbanov, stood trial on charges of helping stage the killing, but a court found them not guilty in 2009. The Russian Supreme Court overruled the acquittal and has sent the case back to prosecutors. Makhmudov and Gaitukayev - uncle of the Makhmudov brothers - have been detained earlier.

The Investigative Committee said it will bring new charges against Khadzhikurbanov and the two Makhmudov brothers, Dzhabrail and Ibragim. Khadzhikurbanov has been in custody, while the two Chechen brothers are free but have been ordered not to leave town.

Ms Politkovskaya's Novaya Gazeta newspaper has welcomed the detention of the suspected shooter and other suspects, but lamented the slow progress in finding the person who ordered the killing. Ms Politkovskaya's son Ilya also criticised authorities for failing to track down the mastermind.

"Five years after, we only have suspects accused of staging the killing," he said. "It could have been done much earlier. A lot of time has been lost."

Ms Politkovskaya was killed on the birthday of Vladimir Putin, who was serving his second presidential term at the time, and that helped fuel speculation about the possible involvement of authorities angered by her exposure of atrocities in Chechnya.

Mr Putin made his first public remarks on the death a few days after, saying that she had little influence and that her murder did more to harm to Russia than her articles did. Mr Putin, 59, is now Russia's prime minister and is all but certain to reclaim the presidency in next March's elections.

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