Russia charges ex-cop with Politkovskaya murder

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Russia on Friday charged a former senior police officer with helping organise the 2006 murder of anti-Kremlin reporter Anna Politkovskaya in exchange for cash, investigators said.

"Today former lieutenant colonel Dmitry Pavlyuchenkov is being charged with murder connected to the victim's professional activities, organised by a hired group," the Investigative Committee said in a statement.

Pavlyuchenkov, who headed a city police department responsible for surveillance, passed information on Politkovskaya's movements and the murder weapon to the killers, investigators alleged.

The retired police officer was arrested on August 23 in a major development in the long-running case that has failed to secure any convictions after half a decade. He could serve a life sentence if convicted.

Investigators said they believe Pavlyuchenko was hired by a middleman, Lom-Ali Gaitukayev, who organised the crime for payment. They added that the mastermind behind the killing was still "unidentified".

Politkovskaya was shot dead in October 2006 in her apartment block in Moscow, and the failure to secure any convictions has been widely ridiculed in Russia and abroad.

Two Chechen brothers, Dzhabrail and Ibragim Makhmudov, and former police officer Sergei Khadzhikurbanov were tried for suspected involvement in the killing but were acquitted on a lack of evidence in 2009.

The verdict was later annulled by the supreme court and a new investigation opened with the same suspects. The authorities in June arrested a third Makhmudov brother, Rustam, on suspicion of carrying out the murder.

Investigators alleged Friday that "the information acquired by Pavlyuchenko and the murder weapon were handed to the direct killer, Rustam Makhmudov, and his accomplices".

A trenchant critic of the Kremlin, Politkovskaya had won international prizes for her reports accusing 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.

© 2011 AFP

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