10/10/2006, 00.00
RUSSIA
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Politkovskaia funeral turns into silent anti-Putin protest

Russian journalists and foreign correspondents pay tribute to the slain journalist. Her death will be discussed during the Russian president's meeting with the German chancellor. First indications show she was murdered by a group of five people after a long stakeout.

Moscow (AsiaNews/Agencies) – The funeral of Anna Politkovskaia, the brave journalist known for her defence of human rights and harsh criticism of Russian policy and violence in Chechnya who was killed last Saturday in Moscow, became a silent protest against the government. Hundreds of people surrounded her flower-draped coffin at Troyekurovskoye cemetery on the western outskirts of Moscow, including many fellow journalists but also foreign correspondents and opposition leaders.

A parallel ceremony was held in Saint Petersburg and Iekaterinburg in the Urals. The same was true for other cities but in Kurgan police banned commemorative rallies and handing out flyers.

Ms Politkovskaia's death will also be raised in Dresden (Germany) where Russian President Vladimir Putin is heading. As a KGB agent Putin was stationed in this city of former East Germany between 1985 and 1990.

After two days of silence, Mr Putin in a phone conversation with his US counterpart George Bush said that the necessary efforts toward an "objective investigation" will be made to solve the case.

According to the German government's spokesman Ulrich Wilhelm, German Chancellor Angela Merkel will discuss the Russian journalist's murder when she meets President Putin in addition to the Iranian nuclear programme and Europe's dependency on Russian gas supplies.

Putin is also likely to face similarly unwelcome questions this afternoon when he meets the press.

This morning in Moscow, Putin faithful and Duma speaker Boris Gryzlov pledged to investigate the killing through parliamentary channels. But he also hinted that the investigation would move in the direction of the criminal underworld since, in his view, Russia guarantees freedom of the press and freedom of speech, and "such atrocious criminal actions cannot ban this."

Meanwhile the press has already started reporting various theories. For Komsomolskaia Pravda the journalist was assassinated after being followed for a long time by a group of three men and two women, four of whom are seen in a video surveillance tape from a supermarket where the victim went shopping before going home.

Novaia Izvestia writes that investigators have three main leads: a vendetta by incriminated police officers the journalist exposed in her articles; a political plot by adversaries of President Putin or Chechen Premier Ramsan Kadirov; or Russian ultranationalists who had Politkovskaia on their "black list".

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