Five years on, Politkovskaya probe announces new charges

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Russian rights activists and friends of Anna Politkovskaya on Friday marked five years since the anti-Kremlin reporter's murder as investigators announced new charges against suspects in the killing.

The 48-year-old Politkovskaya was gunned down in broad daylight in her apartment building in central Moscow on October 7, 2006.

She was sharply critical of the then president Vladimir Putin and his strongman policies in the volatile North Caucasus.

Five years on, the mastermind of the murder is still not publicly known, and a long-running investigation has so far failed to secure any convictions.

But on Friday investigators carrying out a fresh probe announced that a suspect, Lom-Ali Gaitukayev, would be charged that day with carrying out the murder.

Citing "new evidence", they said they believed the mastermind ordered Gaitukayev to carry out the murder and he then recruited others to plan and commit the crime.

In a major development, Russia last month charged a former senior police officer, Dmitry Pavlyuchenkov, with helping organise the murder in exchange for cash.

"Everyone will get his due sooner or later," opposition newspaper Novaya Gazeta, where Politkovskaya worked, said Friday in a front-page tribute to one of its star journalists.

"We don't want revenge -- we want the fulfilment of a duty."

The newspaper opened Politkovskaya's office for the public to leave flowers, while Novaya Gazeta editor Dmitry Muratov visited her graveside and her former colleagues were set to leave tributes at the murder site, spokeswoman Nadezhda Prusenkova told AFP.

A bouquet of red roses lay beside a plaque commemorating Politkovskaya at the murder site on Friday morning.

Members of the liberal Yabloko political party were set to lay flowers outside the apartment building at 6:00 pm (1400 GMT).

The Central House of Journalists was also to open a petition for Moscow city hall to install a plaque commemorating the journalist on the facade of Novaya Gazeta's offices.

Investigators said Friday they would also shortly issue fresh charges against three Chechen brothers, Dzhabrail, Ibragim and Rustam Makhmudov. They would also be charging Sergei Khadzhikurbanov, a former police officer with a criminal record.

Dzhabrail and Ibragim Makhmudov and Khadzhikurbanov have already been tried and acquitted over the affair. The supreme court then halted a retrial, sending the case back for more investigation.

Muratov told AFP he expected the new trial to start no earlier than six months from now.

Politkovskaya earned wide acclaim for her post-war reporting from Chechnya in the early 2000s, meticulously documenting torture, suffering and the heavy-handed tactics of Russian troops in the Caucasus.

She won international prizes for her reports in which she accused Prime Minister Putin of using the Chechen conflict to strangle democracy in Russia. Putin is expected to return to the Kremlin in March polls.

Politkovskaya's murder coincided with -- some said was timed for -- the birthday of Putin, who turns 59 on Friday.

Three days after the murder, Putin dismissed her ability to influence politics in Russia as "extremely insignificant."

Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov has repeatedly slammed attempts to link Putin to Politkovskaya's murder.

Every time someone tried to read something significant into the date of her death, he said he wanted to shout: "'People, are you crazy to associate this with Putin?'"

© 2011 AFP

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