MOSCOW (AP) — Russia today announced that 10 people have been arrested in the killing of journalist and Kremlin critic Anna Politkovskaya, including law enforcement officers and a Chechen crime boss accused of organizing the slaying.
Prosecutor General Yuri Chaika said the 10 will be charged soon with the Oct. 7 killing of Miss Politkovskaya, who revealed human rights abuses in war-scarred Chechnya, and he suggested her murder was plotted outside Russia to discredit its leadership.
Mr. Chaika said people involved in Miss Politkovskaya’s killing also may have been involved in the 2004 shooting death of Paul Klebnikov, an American who was editor of Forbes magazine’s Russian edition.
Both slayings have blackened the reputation of President Vladimir Putin‘s resurgent Russia and deepened Western concerns about the safety of journalists and government critics in the country.
By pointing to enemies of Russia abroad, Mr. Chaika echoed statements by Mr. Putin and allies who suggested Miss Politkovskaya’s death could have been plotted by Kremlin opponents who have fled Russia as part of a campaign to besmirch the country’s image.
Miss Politkovskaya was shot to death in her Moscow apartment building. Mr. Putin sparked outrage abroad when he seemed to dismiss Miss Politkovskaya shortly after her killing, saying her influence on Russian political life was very minor.
Mr. Chaika said the slaying was set up by a Chechen native who led a Moscow organized crime ring that specialized in contract killings. He said those arrested — accused of helping track Miss Politkovskaya and provide her killers with information — included a police major and a Federal Security Service officer as well as three former police officers.
As for the motives for the killing, the results of the investigation lead us to the conclusion that only individuals located outside the territory of the Russian Federation could have had an interest in getting rid of Politkovskaya, Mr. Chaika told reporters.
Mr. Chaika mentioned no names, but he appeared to be pointing the finger at least in part at Boris Berezovsky, a former Kremlin insider who is one of Mr. Putin’s fiercest critics and lives in Britain, where he has refugee status.
His assertion was likely to be met with disbelief by Kremlin critics, who say Mr. Putin and his government are too quick to blame foreign countries and foes abroad — often Mr. Berezovsky — for the nation’s problems.
Miss Politkovskaya’s killing came less than two months before the radiation poisoning death in London on Nov. 23 of Berezovsky associate and former KGB counterintelligence officer Alexander Litvinenko, which further damaged the Russian leadership’s reputation abroad.
Mr. Litvinenko, who had been investigating Miss Politkovskaya’s death, had said Mr. Putin was behind her slaying and also blamed the Russian leader for his own poisoning.