08/28/2007, 00.00
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Foreign connection in Politkovskaya’s murder unconvincing

Colleagues of the journalist who was slain last year welcome the arrests but warn there is no evidence plotters are based abroad. For them prosecutor general’s claims were stitched together in the Kremlin. Soon the results of an independent inquiry will be released.

Moscow (AsiaNews) – Many in Russia expected it. A few days before Anna Politkovskaya’s birthday (August 30) and almost a year since her murder (October 7, 2006), Russia’s Prosecutor General Yuri Chaika announced yesterday that 10 people had been arrested in connection with the contract killing of the prominent journalist and Kremlin critic. September 1 it will also be the third anniversary of the Beslan massacre, an incident during which Ms Politkovskaya’s became violently ill, reportedly poisoned as she traveled to the location of the hostage-taking incident.

For some people the coincidence is no accident. At a time when more and more voices were calling for an answer, the Kremlin responded with a ready-made solution involving outside plotters. Still the charges against the accused have not been made public and many of Ms Politkovskaya’s colleagues have given notice that they will publish the results of their own investigations.

In announcing the arrest of ten people the prosecutor general pointed the finger at a group led by an ethnic Chechen specialised in contract killing, a group that included several former and acting officers from Russia’s Interior Ministry and Federal Security Service or FSB. This in itself confirms some of the findings Ms Politkovskaya wrote in her articles, namely that in post-Communist Russia organised crime and law enforcement agencies co-operated ‘fruitfully.’

Reporters from Novaya Gazeta, the independent newspaper where Ms Politkovskaya worked, welcomed the news but expressed reservations about the official investigation.

Many journalists worked with government investigators but have also conducted their own independent inquiry which broadly points to the same people arrested by the authorities but disagree as to principals inferred in Chaika’s statement.

Officially, the murder was organised by opponents of President Putin who wanted to discredit Russia ahead of the 2008 presidential elections, a not so subtle hint at Boris Berezovsky, the Russian oligarch living in exile in London, who dismissed the implications.

Novaya Gazeta Editor-in-Chief Dmitri A. Muratov labelled the official version “a nightmare,” adding that he did never find any evidence supporting Mr. Chaika’s claim of foreign involvement. Instead, the “prosecutor general is acting not like a prosecutor general, but a politician who works at the instructions of the president,” he said.

Ms. Politkovskaya, 48, was shot repeatedly with a pistol on the landing in front of her apartment. Her case is the most high profile murder to have hit Russian media in the last three years.

Russian President Putin called Politkovskaya’s murder a revolting crime but belittled her work as not very influential on Russia’s political life.

In fact she was an internationally-renown reporter, very critical of Putin and actively committed to uncovering abuses by Russian security forces in Chechnya.

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