Murder in Moscow: The shooting of Anna Politkovskaya

A discarded Makarov, pistol of choice for Russian hitmen, and four shells were found next to her body. Evidence that points to the assassination of the journalist who hounded Putin and was about to expose the Chechen PM

A body found slumped in a Moscow lift. A discarded pistol and four spent shells. A mysterious thin man in a black baseball cap. The murder yesterday of Anna Politkovskaya, the most famous reporter in Russia, is a story as sinister as anything she investigated in her fearless, award-winning career.

The 48-year-old, lauded by journalists and writers around the world for her exposés in Chechnya, appears to have been assassinated. Her most powerful enemy was President Vladimir Putin. The murder came two days before she was due to publish an exposé of the Chechnyan Prime Minister.

The gun found near her apartment block in central Moscow was a 9mm Makarov, known as the weapon of choice for Russian hitmen. Police said they were searching for a man in his twenties dressed in a black cap, seen just before neighbours discovered her body in the lift.

Amnesty International said that it was "shocked, saddened and deeply angered" at the death of Politkovskaya, who had won its international media award in 2002. A spokesman said: "Russia has lost a great human- rights defender."

The deputy editor at the bi-weekly liberal newspaper Novaya Gazeta, where she worked, said he believed the murder was linked to her work. "The first thing that comes to mind is that Anna was killed for her professional activities," said Vitaly Yaroshevsky. "We don't see any other motive."

The mother of two had received death threats before, but it was thought her gender and high profile might spare her the fate of others killed for writing uncomfortable truths since the fall of the Soviet Union.

She was the most high-profile journalist to be murdered since 2004 when the US-born editor of Forbes Russia, Paul Klebnikov, was killed in a drive-by shooting. Two years on, the identity and motives of his attackers remain unknown.

The British journalist Anne Applebaum, who has worked in Russia extensively, said: "It is terrible news. She was extremely brave. She kept on going to Chechnya even long after the Russian government had stopped protecting journalists there."

Politkovskaya was a loner who lived plainly, said Applebaum, and had a style of writing that was "thoroughly unsentimental and didn't romanticise things at all. She just documented the story in a cool fashion. She did an amazing story about the shocking, slovenly system of what happens to the bodies of Russian soldiers after they die, about how little anyone in the system cared."

Joan Smith, a columnist for this paper who knew Politkovskaya personally, said: "Anna had more courage than most of us can begin to imagine, and her death is a reminder of the violent state she exposed so vividly in Putin's Russia."

Smith last saw Polit- kovskaya at the British launch of her book on the President. It was sponsored by the writers' organisation PEN, which kept, "as far as we could, a watching brief on Anna, aware that her life was always in danger".

In February 2001, she was accused of being a spy for the now dead Chechen warlord Shamil Basayev, the man who would claim to have masterminded the Beslan school siege. She was held in a pit for three days by the FSB security service without food or water. In 2002, she was involved in negotiating for the release of hostages during the Moscow theatre siege, something her critics claimed proved that she was too close to the Chechen rebels for her own good.

Ramzan Kadyrov, the subject of her next article, commands a private army and has been accused by human rights groups of being complicit in many thousand civilian "disappearances" in recent years. She claimed to have mobile phone footage proving his complicity in the murder of Russian servicemen and civilian kidnappings.

Smith said: "At the time of the Beslan siege, we heard the barely credible news that Anna had been poisoned by a cup of tea as she tried to reach the scene of the outrage. Now an assassin's bullets have silenced her quiet, forceful voice."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Life and Style
Suited and booted in the Lanvin show at the Paris menswear collections
fashionParis Fashion Week
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Kara Tointon and Jeremy Piven star in Mr Selfridge
tvActress Kara Tointon on what to expect from Series 3
Voices
Winston Churchill, then prime minister, outside No 10 in June 1943
voicesA C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
News
i100
News
An asteroid is set to pass so close to Earth it will be visible with binoculars
news
News
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Private Client Solicitor - Oxford

Excellent Salary : Austen Lloyd: OXFORD - REGIONAL FIRM - An excellent opportu...

Austen Lloyd: Clinical Negligence Associate / Partner - Bristol

Super Package: Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL - SENIOR CLINICAL NEGLIGENCE - An outstan...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Consultant - Solar Energy - OTE £50,000

£15000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Fantastic opportunities are ava...

Recruitment Genius: Compute Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Compute Engineer is required to join a globa...

Day In a Page

Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project