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Six months after "Novaya Gazeta" reporter Anna Politkovskaya's murder, RSF awaits findings of investigation

(RSF/IFEX) - Since "Novaya Gazeta" reporter Anna Politkovskaya's murder in Moscow six months ago, on 7 October 2006, the prosecutor-general's office has revealed no details about the progress of its investigation. Reports of developments in the press have not been confirmed. Reporters Without Borders has voiced frustration with the lack of visible progress in the investigation and said the campaign on her behalf should not let up.

"We are waiting with the utmost impatience for the prosecutor-general to reveal the findings of the investigations," the press freedom organisation said. "Statements praising his department's staff offer no guarantee that this horrible crime is being solved. The passing months must not result in any weakening in the campaign on Politkovskaya's behalf. We must continue to press for justice to be done in this case and for an end to impunity in Russia."

Reporters Without Borders added: "If the authorities fail to produce concrete and conclusive evidence, the creation of an international commission of enquiry or a Russian parliamentary commission of enquiry could prove necessary."

Sergei Sokolov, one of "Novaya Gazeta"'s editors, told Reporters Without Borders: "For the time being, we have no criticism to make about the work of the prosecutor's office." He refused to go into any detail about the case on the grounds that "a leak could have a disastrous effect on the investigation."

Russian Prosecutor-General Yuri Chaika took the same position when questioned by the Interfax news agency on 29 March 2007. He hailed the work done by those in charge of the investigation and claimed that a great deal had been achieved and that this could be made public soon. Politkovskaya's son, Ilya Politkovski, also said last December that he was satisfied with the way the investigation was going.

Despite the secrecy surrounding the investigation, the Russian press has referred to various leads, but none of them has been confirmed. Activist Lev Ponomarev, who heads the civil society group Za Prava Cheloveka (For Human Rights), said on 27 March that he had received an email message claiming to reveal the identity of Politkovskaya's murderers.

The message said those responsible were soldiers working for a special unit, an employee of the FSB (the former KGB) and the Chechen Republic's current president, Ramzan Kadyrov. Ponomarev called on the prosecutor's office to carry out an investigation with the aim of identifying who sent the message. "The only way of knowing if there is any truth to this is to interrogate these men," he said.

"Novaya Gazeta" editor Dmitri Muratov said he regarded this message as "far-fetched" in an interview for Interfax on 28 March. "I have just one comment to make. Anyone who reads this message carefully and compares its content with the circumstances of Anna's death will see clear contradictions. Absolutely none of it matches the facts of the case."

The message said, for example, that Politkovskaya was murdered on the morning of 7 October when in fact it took place in the late afternoon. "Novaya Gazeta" received the same message a week before Ponomarev did. "We often receive messages of this type accusing the Russian special services, Boris Berezovski or even Movladi Baysarov of Anna's murder," Muratov added.

Last November, the press reported that a team of investigators from the prosecutor-general's office and the security services went to Nizhnevartovsk, in Siberia, to question former police officers who had served in Chechnya, one of whom is serving a prison sentence because Politkovskaya revealed in her reports that he took part in the abduction and disappearance of a young Chechen, Zelimkhan Murdalov.

A rally in Politkovskaya's memory was to be held at the initiative of the For Human Rights movement on Pushkin Square in Moscow on 7 April, exactly six months after her murder. "Novaya Gazeta" is not organising any special activity to mark this day. But Sokolov told Reporters Without Borders that the newspaper is preparing a book on Politkovskaya containing articles she wrote and articles by her colleagues. Sources told RWB it should be published at the end of the month. "We are journalists and our job is to write," he said.

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