Threats made against Politkovskaya colleagues

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The Independent Online

One year on from the murder of the investigative journalist Anna Politkovskaya, reporters from the same newspaper have revealed they have received threats after conducting their own investigation into the unsolved killing.

Although arrests have been made in connection with the murder, the person who ordered the killing has not been apprehended. The editor of Novaya Gazeta, where Ms Politkovskaya's hard-hitting reports were published, revealed that journalists have received threats after making inquiries into their colleague's death. "One guy received a text message to his mobile from an anonymous number," said Dmitry Muratov. "All that was written there was his full home address, which nobody even in the office knew."

Working at Novaya Gazeta, one of the few remaining Russian media outlets openly to criticise the Kremlin and investigate corruption, is not a safe occupation. Its former deputy editor, Yury Shchekochikhin, died from an apparent poisoning in 2003. The killers were never found, and critics say there was never a proper investigation.

In late August, the Russian prosecutor general, Yury Chaika, announced that Ms Politkovskaya had been murdered by a Chechen gang, with help from rogue interior ministry and security services operatives. Shamil Burayev, formerly the head of an administrative district in Chechnya, was arrested.

The mastermind, said Mr Chaika, was probably someone living abroad and seeking to destabilise Russia. Most people took this to be a reference to Boris Berezovsky, who is exiled in London. The staff of Novaya Gazeta were furious that the prosecutor had come out with unsubstantiated allegations in the middle of the investigation, and suspected the hand of the Kremlin in the announcement.

More recently, the head of the official investigation team seemed to backtrack somewhat, stating only that a mastermind abroad was "one possible version" of the killing. "This kind of crime involves a long chain with many links," said Alexander Bastyrkin at a press conference this week. "Finding the person who ordered it is very difficult." He added that there were "six possible versions" of the crime, which were being thoroughly investigated.

"I have full confidence in the investigation team," said Mr Muratov. "But we're worried that there may be political pressure on the prosecutor general." He expressed doubt that Mr Berezovsky was behind the killing, suggesting that this fitted into a Kremlin tactic of blaming all Russia's woes on President Putin's former political benefactor. "It's already getting a bit tedious to hold Berezovsky responsible for everything bad that happens," said Mr Muratov. "We believe that the person who ordered the killing is within the Russian Federation."

Novaya Gazeta reactivated Ms Politkovskaya's mobile phone number on Monday. "Hundreds of people shared information with her on this number," said a statement on the newspaper's website. "She was threatened on this number. And many people called her on this number as their last resort." The paper invited all those whom she had helped, or who had simply been moved by her reports, to call and share their memories of the murdered journalist.

It plans to release a special edition on Monday containing all the messages.

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