In Russia, suspects arrested in Politkovskaya murder

New York, August 27, 2007—Ten suspects have been arrested in the October 2006 assassination in Moscow of investigative reporter Anna Politkovskaya, Russian Prosecutor General Yuri Chaika told a news conference today. The Committee to Protect Journalists welcomed the development but urged Russian authorities to publicly disclose details of the probe, including evidence of the suspects’ involvement and the role of the purported masterminds.

Chaika told reporters that the detained suspects include current and former police and Federal Security Service (FSB) officers, along with members of a criminal gang that “specializes in contract killings” and is led by a Chechen crime boss. He did not identify the suspects by name. Russian authorities detained the suspects between August 15 and 23, and the Basmanny Court of Moscow approved the arrests today, according to local news reports. Chaika said the suspects would be formally charged soon.

In the news conference, Chaika suggested that the murder plot was hatched overseas “to destabilize the situation in Russia, discredit the authorities and change the constitutional system,” according to the news agency Itar-Tass. He did not identify the alleged masterminds, and authorities have not moved publicly to arrest such individuals.

Politkovskaya, an internationally known reporter for the Moscow newspaper Novaya Gazeta, was killed by a lone gunman in the elevator of her apartment building on October 7, 2006.

“While these arrests are a welcome development and mark progress in the investigation of Anna Politkovskaya’s murder, Russian authorities must make more information about the case public as soon as possible, including naming the suspects and identifying the masterminds behind this terrible crime,” CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon said. “Transparency should be an integral part of this high-profile investigation. Solving Politkovskaya’s murder and the 13 other unsolved work-related killings of journalists since 2000 would help reverse impunity—a stain on Russia’s press freedom record.”

Dmitry Muratov, editor of Novaya Gazeta, told CPJ that the arrests appear to be “justified” but speculation about the purported overseas plot was premature. An editorial today in Novaya Gazeta said: “There are no guarantees that the real masterminds will be those convicted.” 

Two other reporters for Novaya Gazeta, a paper known for its hard-hitting journalism, have been killed for their work since 2000, according to CPJ research

Politkovskaya, 48, was best known for her investigative reports on human rights abuses committed by Russian military officers in Chechnya. In seven years covering the second Chechen war, Politkovskaya’s reporting repeatedly drew the wrath of Russian authorities. She was threatened, jailed, forced into exile, and poisoned during her career, CPJ research shows. Her last, unfinished story was about alleged torture of Chechen civilians by Kremlin-backed local authorities.

Russia is the third-deadliest country in the world for journalists over the past 15 years, behind only the conflict-ridden countries of Iraq and Algeria, according to CPJ research. At least 14 journalists have been slain since 2000 alone, including American journalist Paul Klebnikov. None of the cases since 2000 have been solved.