Putin promises to hunt down journalist's killers

Posted in Russia | 10-Oct-06 | Author: Tom Parfitt| Source: Guardian (UK)

Russian police investigators work at a site of journalist Anna Politkovskaya's murder in Moscow, 07 October 2006.

President Vladimir Putin yesterday broke his silence over the murder of the journalist Anna Politkovskaya. In a conversation with the US president, George Bush, Mr Putin vowed that "all necessary efforts will be made for an objective investigation into the tragic death".

The Russian president had been criticised for failing to condemn the murder, which sparked fury among Russia's liberal intelligentsia and brought hundreds of people on to Moscow streets.

Politkovskaya was a crusading journalist who exposed the horrors of conflict in Russia's breakaway southern region, Chechnya.

The United Nations high commissioner for human rights, Louise Arbour, added her voice to calls for an exhaustive investigation, saying Politkovskaya's death was a great loss not just for her country but "for all who struggle for human rights around the world".

Novaya Gazeta, the newspaper where Politkovskaya worked, published a memorial edition yesterday, saying: "For as long as there is a Novaya Gazeta, her killers will not sleep in peace." It promised that a team of reporters would investigate the murder.

Editors at the newspaper said they believed the pro-Moscow Chechen prime minister, Ramzan Kadyrov - whom Politkovskaya called a state bandit - could have been responsible for her murder.

Mr Kadyrov has vehemently denied the accusation, and Novaya Gazeta acknowledged the killing could equally have been organised to discredit him.

New details emerged yesterday of CCTV footage showing a man in a baseball cap entering Politkovskaya's apartment block shortly before she was found shot dead there inside a lift. Citing police sources, the Kommersant newspaper said the man was also captured on footage at a supermarket in the south of the city where Politkovskaya had shopped earlier in the day. He was accompanied by a woman aged around 30 .

Reporters Without Borders, the press defence group, demanded an independent international investigation conducted under the aegis of the UN or the Council of Europe.

"We think it inadmissible that Russian law enforcement agencies should do it on their own [because] Russia has already proved that it is unable to solve the murders of journalists that stood in the way of the authorities," the group said.

Several high-profile murders of journalists, including the gunning down two years ago of Paul Khlebnikov, editor of the Russian edition of Forbes magazine, on a Moscow street have not been solved.

Politkovskaya's funeral will take place today in Moscow.