Archive for Tuesday, August 28, 2007

10, including crime boss, arrested in killing of Russian journalist

August 28, 2007

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— A crime ring aided by rogue police murdered famed journalist Anna Politkovskaya last year on behalf of outsiders bent on discrediting the Kremlin, Russian authorities said Monday, though the reporter's editors dismissed the government's assertion about motive as "political PR."

Ten men have been arrested for Politkovskaya's murder, Russian Prosecutor General Yuri Chaika said, including a Chechen crime boss and Russian police and security officers who helped track the journalist's movements before her murder in the lobby of her Moscow apartment building last fall.

Politkovskaya, 48, was regarded as Russia's most fearless investigative journalist and one of the Kremlin's fiercest critics. Her murder sparked concern from Russians and Westerners about security for journalists in Russia and the growing intolerance for dissent and criticism under Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Not long after the reporter's slaying, Putin suggested that people outside Russia may have engineered her murder to tar the Kremlin's image. Though Putin didn't name names, he appeared to be pointing to Boris Berezovsky, the exiled Russian oligarch and staunch Kremlin critic now living in London.

Chaika's discussion of motive in the Politkovskaya murder hewed closely to Putin's remarks.

"Politkovskaya's murder may only have been in the interest of persons outside the Russian Federation," Chaika said, "that have as a goal to ... engineer a crisis in Russia, return to the former system where money and the oligarchs made all the decisions, and discredit the leaders of the Russian state."

Chaika did not name any of the men arrested. He said the group was led by a Chechen who headed up a Moscow crime ring responsible for a series of contract killings in Russia, Ukraine and Latvia. A police major, three former police officers and an officer with the KGB's successor agency, the Federal Security Service, took part by supplying Polit-kovskaya's killers with information about her and helping them track her whereabouts.

Members of the gang responsible for Politkovskaya's murder include suspects in the 2004 murder of Paul Klebnikov, an American citizen and editor of the Russian edition of Forbes magazine, Chaika said. He also suggested the same gang may be linked to the murder last year of Andrei Kozlov, a reform-minded deputy chief of Russia's Central Bank.

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