Former police colonel indicted in Politkovskaya murder

Retired police lieutenant colonel Dmitry Pavlyuchenkov, seen here in detention in 2011, was indicted in the Politkovskaya murder today. (Reuters/Sergei Karpukhin)

New York, July 16, 2012--Russian authorities have formally indicted retired police Lt. Col. Dmitry Pavlyuchenkov on charges of complicity in the murder of Anna Politkovskaya, Russia's Investigative Committee said today. Politkovskaya, an investigative reporter with the Moscow-based independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta and a fierce critic of the war in Chechnya, was slain in her apartment building on October 7, 2006. 

The committee said Pavlyuchenkov, former head of surveillance at Moscow's Main Internal Affairs Directorate (GUVD-Moscow), the city's main police force, had ordered his subordinates to follow Politkovskaya and identify her schedule and usual routes without informing them of his motives. The colonel then shared the information with members of a gang specially formed to kill the journalist. Pavlyuchenkov also acquired the murder weapon and bullets, the committee said.

According to the independent business weekly Kommersant, Pavlyuchenkov could face a life term in jail if convicted, but his cooperation with investigators may help him receive a shorter sentence. In late May, a Moscow court released Pavlyuchenkov under house arrest, news reports said. He is reportedly undergoing medical treatment at a Moscow hospital, the reports said.

Authorities had arrested Pavlyuchenkov in August 2011 on accusations of organizing the murder, but downgraded the charges against him a month later to involvement in the killing.

"The terrible murder of Anna Politkovskaya nearly six years ago is still marked by impunity," CPJ Europe and Central Asia Program Coordinator Nina Ognianova said. "Authorities must continue to move forward in prosecuting those responsible for this slaying, which epitomizes the injustice that has reigned in journalist murders in Russia."

Authorities allege Pavlyuchenkov was among a conspiracy that included suspected killer Rustam Makhmudov; his two brothers, Ibragim and Dzhabrail; their uncle, Lom-Ali Gaitukayev; and a former police operative, Sergei Khadzhikurbanov. Rustam Makhmudov was arrested in May 2011 in connection to Politkovskaya's murder and indicted a month later; his brothers are reportedly banned from leaving Russia. Gaitukayev and Khadzhikurbanov are both serving prison terms in connection to other crimes, according to news reports. No trial dates have been scheduled for any of the suspects. In February 2009, a jury unanimously acquitted three defendants in the case.

According to the Investigative Committee, Gaitukayev organized the criminal group tasked to kill Politkovskaya at the orders of an unidentified person. The committee said that the mastermind "was dissatisfied by the journalist's exposés of human rights abuse, theft of state property, and office abuse by government officials."

  • For more data and analysis on Russia, visit CPJ's Russia page here.

July 16, 2012 5:59 PM ET |

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