Politkovskaya killer manhunt in Belgium: report

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Russian detectives are leading a manhunt in Belgium as the high-profile investigation into the murder of journalist Anna Politkovskaya takes a sudden turn, a Belgian newspaper reported Saturday.

A second judicial probe has switched its attention to the eastern Belgian city of Liege, after a first investigation saw three people acquitted, Le Soir said citing a series of unidentified and anonymous judicial officials.

A spokeswoman for the Belgian prosecutor's office was unable to comment when contacted by AFP on Saturday morning, but the report said that the killer could may be in hiding in Belgium and a phone-tapping operation is under way.

Moscow requested assistance from Liege prosecutors in October on new leads into who could lie behind Politkovskaya's killing, and Belgian authorities were said to have aided Russian counterparts already in the first investigation two years ago.

Campaigners have in the past accused Russian Prime Minster Vladimir Putin's regime of having been involved in the murder of Politkovskaya, who denounced human rights abuses in Chechnya and criticised then president Putin.

Politkovskaya was gunned down in the staircase of her apartment building in central Moscow on October 7, 2006.

Putin infamously quipped that the journalist's "ability to influence political life in Russia was extremely insignificant", speaking in Germany three days after her murder, on Putin's birthday.

© 2010 AFP

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