Politkovskaya Murder Newspaper Offers Reward for Slain Russian Journalist's Killers
The murder of investigative journalist Anna Politkovskaya has prompted her newspaper to offer an award of close to $1 million for information about her killers. Her death has raised uncomfortable questions about press freedom in Russia on the eve of President Vladimir Putin's visit to Germany.
Journalist Anna Politkovskaya was killed on Saturday in a contract-style shooting.
Politkovskaya was killed on Saturday in the elevator of her Moscow apartment building. The journalist had made her name with her critical reporting on the war in Chechnya and had received several death threats. She was a fierce critic of the Russian government, particularly of President Vladimir Putinand the pro-Moscow Chechen president Ramzan Kadyrov. In 2004 she was poisoned while on her way to Beslan to cover the school hostage crisis. She blamed the attack on the Russian security services.
Politkovskaya had been due to publish an article on Monday on kidnapping and torture in Chechnya based on witness accounts. "We never got the article," deputy editor Vitaly Yerushensky told Ekho Moskvy radio, "but she had evidence about these (abducted) people and there were photographs."
Saturday's killing brought to 43 the number of journalists who have been murdered in Russia since 1993. According to the Committee for the Protection of Journalists, Russia is the third most dangerous country in the world for journalists after Iraq and Algeria. Some of these journalists were killed while covering the war in Chechnya, six died during clashes between the government and the opposition in Moscow in 1993, and many have fallen victim to contract-style killings, often because of their attempts to uncover corruption. The most high profile killing up to now had been the 2004 assassination of Paul Kelbnikov, the US born editor of the Russian edition of Forbes magazine.
Russia has pledged to hunt down Politkovskaya's killers. Prosecutor-General Yury Chaika is to take personal charge of the investigation. Moscow police have published CCTV images of their prime suspect, a young man wearing a baseball cap, who followed her inside the building just before the shooting. A pistol and four cartridges were found next to her body.
Well wishers have laid flowers and candles outside Politkovskaya's apartment block and the offices of Novaya Gazeta and on Sunday hundreds rallied in Moscow's Pushkin Square to protest her murder. The 48-year-old mother of two is to be buried in Moscow on Tuesday.
The case has led to increased worries about press freedom in Russia, with the European Union and the US demanding a thorough investigation into the killing. President Putin is due to begin a visit to Germany on Tuesday and he is expected to face tough questions from his hosts about the murder.
When asked by reporters if Chancellor Angela Merkel would bring up the journalist's murder at her meeting with Putin, government spokesman Ulrich Wilhelm said that the Merkel "has always made clear that the development of freedom of opinion and press is an extremely important value for every country." Foreign Ministry spokesman Martin Jaeger added, "The crime must not go unpunished ... It is the task of a government to ensure that a climate of fear in which press freedom cannot develop does not arise in a country."