08/25/2011, 00.00
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Breakthrough in Politkovskaya case: alleged mastermind arrested

The former police colonel Dmitri Pavluchenkov head of the department for covert surveillance. Chief editor of Novaya Gazeta: Anja was only one of 100 targeted by the team set up by the police.
Moscow (AsiaNews) – There has been a breakthrough in the investigation into the murder of journalist Anna Politkovskaya, who was killed five years ago in front of her home in Moscow. After the arrest last May of the alleged killer, Chechen Rustam Makhmudov, yesterday news broke of the arrest of a former police colonel who is believed to have organized the execution.

In the first trial into the reporter’s murder in 2009 Dmitri Pavluchenkov – who declares himself innocent -, was one of the most important prosecution witnesses. A few days ago he instead became the principal accused. According to investigators, it was he who organised surveillance of Anja (as she is called by fellow journalists) and provided the gun to the assassin, who on 7 October 2006, killed her in front of her Moscow home. On August 22, Pavluchenkov was placed under arrest after a long interrogation.

Vladimir Markin - Investigative Committee spokesman – stated for the first time that investigators have also identified the instigator of the bloody crime, the real missing piece in years of investigations and trials that have consistently failed to produce definitive conclusions. "To avoid ruining the investigation at this time we do not intend to make his name public," said Markin.

Sent to Chechnya for the independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta, Politkovskaya always denounced the crimes of Russian special forces in the Caucasus, the responsibilities that lay with Vladimir Putin and the Kremlin regarding the suffering of civilians during the war and the criminal actions of the pro-Russian president Ramzan Kadyrov. This is why after her assassination, suspicions pointed to a mastermind within the central power. However, the reporter's son, Ilya, never believed in the theory in a plot "from above".

Commenting to Gazeta.ru on the latest developments in the investigation, the chief editor of Novaya, Sergei Sokolov, said that the independent investigation carried out by his paper indicates that the former police colonel was "one of the possible organizers." According to the journalist, Pavluchenkov had another accomplice and certainly "Anja was only one of a hundred others that the team had targeted."

Politkovskaya's case, along with those of Khodorkovsky and Magnitsky, represents a source of embarrassment for the Kremlin before the international community. Many commentators believe that with a few months to go before the presidential race (March 2012), the government has accelerated investigations to close a case that has gone on too long and with a negative impact on its image. The first trial ended in a scandalous flop: all three defendants, the former police officer Sergei Khadzhikurbanov and two Chechen brothers, Dzhabrail and Ibraghim Makhmudov were acquitted. A second trial was reopened only recently. (N.A.)

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