Russia charges Chechen with Politkovskaya murder

2nd June 2011, Comments 0 comments

Russia on Thursday charged a Chechen man detained by security forces this week with the murder of opposition journalist Anna Politkovskaya who was shot dead nearly five years ago, investigators said.

Rustam Makhmudov, 37, who was arrested at his parents' home in Chechnya after years on the run, has been charged with murder and illegal use of weapons, the investigative committee said in a statement.

It said that investigators believe he carried out the murder of Politkovskaya, who was shot dead in October 2006 in her apartment block.

The failure of the investigation to secure any convictions has been widely ridiculed in Russia and abroad.

Makhmudov's two brothers and a former police officer are suspected of assisting the murderer but the mastermind of the killing has never been identified.

Investigators said that during the 1990s, Makhmudov had carried out a string of crimes in the Moscow region, including kidnapping and extortion. The statement said he was still being interrogated.

A trenchant critic of the Kremlin, Politkovskaya had won international prizes for her reports for the opposition Novaya Gazeta newspaper accusing the Prime Minister Vladimir Putin of using the Chechen conflict to strangle democracy while he was president.

Her killing sparked international outrage and underlined the lack of security faced by reporters in Russia who dare to challenge the authorities.

Makhmudov's arrest overnight Monday was hailed as a rare breakthrough in the much criticised investigation and a successful operation by the security forces.

But supporters of the slain reporter questioned why it had taken until now to arrest a man who in the end was hiding nowhere more unusual than his mother's place in his home village.

Chechnya's strongman leader Ramzan Kadyrov has long been accused of showing little inclination to control the local security forces and even turning a blind eye to criminals residing in his region.

Officials have said that Makhmudov had initially fled to Belgium but it was unclear when and how he had returned home.

"It speaks for itself that a person who was subject to two arrest warrants -- a Russian and an international one -- was living in his home village at his parents' home," the chief editor of the Novaya Gazeta, Dmitry Muratov told Kommersant FM radio.

© 2011 AFP

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