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Retired police official charged in Politkovskaya murder

Pavlyuchenkov in a Moscow court. (AP/Ivan Sekretarev)
New York, September 2, 2011--Russia's Investigative Committee brought charges today against retired police Lt. Col. Dmitry Pavlyuchenkov in connection with the 2006 murder of renowned investigative reporter Anna Politkovskaya, and named convicted criminal Lom-Ali Gaitukayev as an organizer of the slaying.

"Russian investigators are at last making some progress in Anna Politkovskaya's murder inquiry," said CPJ Deputy Director Robert Mahoney. "They should now build on this and broaden their investigation and apprehend all those behind this murder, including the masterminds."

The Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation, the agency tasked with solving Politkovskaya's murder, said an unidentified person contracted with Gaitukayev in July 2006 to kill Politkovskaya. Gaitukayev, the committee said in a statement, formed a gang that included his nephews--brothers Rustam, Dzhabrail, and Ibragim Makhmudov--along with Pavlyuchenkov and Sergei Khadzhikurbanov, a former police officer with the Moscow Directorate for Combating Organized Crime.

The agency said that Pavlyuchenkov--then head of surveillance at Moscow's Main Internal Affairs Directorate--ordered his subordinates to follow the journalist to identify her schedule and commuting routes, and then shared the information with the other members of the gang. The colonel also passed the murder weapon from Gaitukayev to the suspected gunman, Rustam Makhmudov, the agency said. Russian authorities arrested Pavlyuchenkov on August 24.

Gaitukayev is currently serving a lengthy jail term on unrelated charges of attempted murder, according to the BBC Russian service. Rustam Makhmudov was arrested on May 31 and indicted in early June. Ibragim and Dzhabrail Makhmudov--previously arrested in connection to the Politkovskaya murder--were acquitted by a jury in February 2009. Khadzhikurbanov, who was acquitted along with the Makhmudov brothers, was arrested in April 2009 on unrelated extortion charges and is currently serving a jail term, local press reports said.

Although the Investigative Committee announced that the probe into the Politkovskaya murder was ongoing, it did not say whether investigators plan to bring charges against Gaitukayev.

Politkovskaya, a special correspondent for the Moscow-based triweekly Novaya Gazeta, was well known for her investigative reports on human rights abuses in Chechnya--stories that led to multiple threats on her life. In her seven years covering the second Chechen war, the journalist's reporting repeatedly drew the wrath of Russian authorities. She was threatened, jailed, forced into exile, and poisoned during her career, CPJ research shows. On October 7, 2006, a man in a baseball cap shot her dead in the elevator of her Moscow apartment house.

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