The Murder of Anna Politkovskaya Retired Police Officer Arrested in Russia

Five years after journalist Anna Politkovskaya was murdered in Moscow, Russian police now believe the contract killing may have been organized by one of their own. A retired officer was arrested on Tuesday on suspicion of being involved in the murder.

A mourner lights a candle for slain Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya in 2006.

A mourner lights a candle for slain Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya in 2006.

During the first hearing for the case, retired police officer Lt. Col. Dmitry Pavlyuchenkov appeared as a witness for state prosecutors. Now, however, he has become a suspect. Investigators believe he may have accepted payment from "a person whose identity is still unknown" for organizing the murder of journalist Anna Politkovskaya, Investigative Committee spokesman Vladimir Markin told Russian news agencies on Tuesday.

The suspect is also believed to have arranged for the alleged murderer Rustam Makhmudov to receive money, a pistol and a silencer to complete the act in 2006. Arrested in late May of this year in Chechnya, Makhmudov stands accused of having shot Politkovskaya in the elevator of her apartment building some 5 years ago.

But police remain uncertain who might have commissioned Pavlyuchenkov to arrange the killing, the spokesman said, adding that he appears to be just one link in a chain of those involved.

Turning Point

Still, the lawyer for Politkovskaya's children, Anna Stavitzkaya, called the arrest a turning point in the investigation. "This is a very important stage in explaining the event," she told SPIEGEL ONLINE on Wednesday.

Another former police officer and two of Makhmudov's brothers, accused of acting as lookout and getaway driver in the killing, were aquitted on lack of evidence in a 2009 trial. The Supreme Court rejected the aquittal, returning the case to prosecutors.

"He (Dmitry Pavlyuchenkov) was the main witness in the case, and if the accused had been convicted then, he would have walked away scot-free," Stavitzkaya added. "But along with the (newspaper) Novaya Gaseta we conducted our own research, collecting evidence that pointed more to the conclusion that he was himself involved in the crime and not just a witness."

Politkovskaya's case has become symbolic of what many see as the persecution of journalists critical of the government in Russia. The 48-year-old was an outspoken and internationally recognized critic of both the Kremlin and its alleged corruption in Chechnya, and there is a widely held suspicion that the government may have been involved in the brutal attack.

With reporting by Benjamin Bidder in Moscow

kla -- with wires


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