Former police chief held over murder of Politkovskaya

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The Independent Online

A former Russian police officer has been arrested on suspicion of organising the killing of investigative journalist, Anna Politkovskaya, in 2006. Lieutenant-Colonel Dmitry Pavlyuchenkov is accused of plotting the logistics of the killing whilst he was still working as the head of a top police unit.

Ms Politkovskaya was shot four times in her apartment building, as she returned with her shopping. The death of one of Russia's most fearless journalists, a fierce critic of the Kremlin and of Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, drew attention to the risks journalists face in the country. She worked for the opposition paper Novaya Gazeta, known for its investigative reporting. The paper is partly owned by Alexander Lebedev, the proprietor of The Independent.

"Pavlyuchenkov bought the weapons, worked out a plan and decided the role of each of the accomplices in preparing and committing the murder," said Vladimir Markin, for the Investigative Committee. He used his job to put Ms Politkovskaya under surveillance then passed on the information to the alleged killer, Mr Markin said.

The alleged hitman, Rustam Makhmudov, was arrested in May in Chechnya. His brothers, said to have acted as lookout and getaway driver, were acquitted of involvement in 2009 along with a retired police officer Sergei Khadzhikurbanov, who was accused of supplying the murder weapon.

But the person who ordered the hit is still at large. Police said they have a suspect, but Mr Markin added: "There was a chain of middlemen and it depends on how long that chain was." The arrest of Mr Pavlyuchenkov also raises questions about previous investigations, when he acted as a witness against two other suspects in the case.

Anna Savitskaya, a lawyer for the Politkovskaya family, told Interfax news agency that the arrest could be a "turning point", but the journalist's son, Ilya Politkovskaya, said: "We need to wait to see how they will prove his guilt and what kind of testimony he will give."