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Retired police officer charged in connection with Politkovskaya's murder

Retired police lieutenant colonel Dmitry Pavlyuchenkov before a court hearing in Moscow on 25 August 2011. Pavlyuchenkov has been charged in an investigation into the 2006 killing of journalist Anna Politkovskaya
Retired police lieutenant colonel Dmitry Pavlyuchenkov before a court hearing in Moscow on 25 August 2011. Pavlyuchenkov has been charged in an investigation into the 2006 killing of journalist Anna Politkovskaya

REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin

Five years after journalist Anna Politkovskaya was shot dead in the elevator of her apartment building, retired police officer Lt. Col. Dmitry Pavlyuchenkov has been charged for spearheading the criminal group that carried out her murder, report the Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations (CJES), the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and Reporters Without Borders (RSF). Convicted criminal Lom-Ali Gaitukayev was also named for organising the slaying.

As a special correspondent for "Novaya Gazeta", Politkovskaya was a ferocious critic of the Kremlin's corruption and its war in Chechnya. She was internationally recognised for her investigative reports on human rights abuses in Chechnya and was threatened, jailed, forced into exile and poisoned during her seven years covering the conflict. She was murdered on 7 October 2006.

According to the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation, an unidentified person set up a contract with Gaitukayev in July 2006 to kill Politkovskaya. Gaitukayev then created a gang that included his nephews - brothers Rustam, Dzhabrail, and Ibragim Makhmudov - along with Pavlyuchenkov and Sergei Khadzhikurbanov, a former police officer with the Moscow Directorate for Combating Organised Crime.

At the time, Pavlyuchenkov was head of surveillance at Moscow's Main Internal Affairs Directorate and had the journalist followed to determine her schedule and travel routes in Moscow. He shared this information with the gang and passed the murder weapon from Gaitukayev to the suspected gunman, Rustam Makhmudov. He also planned the logistics of the crime and assigned tasks to the other accomplices, says a statement from the Investigative Committee. Pavlyuchenkov was arrested on 24 August and charged on 2 September.

"When not only low-level executors but the suspected organisers and the suspected gunman are on trial, then we can have a serious prosecution that could lead to the finding of the mastermind," Sergei Sokolov, deputy editor of "Novaya Gazeta", told the local press.

It is a widely suspected that the government may have been involved in Politkovskaya's murder, say news reports.

RSF and CPJ are urging the Investigative Committee not to restrict blame to a few people but to go after the masterminds and their accomplices as it continues its investigation.

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