Ten individuals have been charged in the killing of controversial Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya in October 2006. Yuri Chaika, General Prosecutor of the Russian Federation, made the announcement which implicated an alleged group of Chechen contract killers, members of the FSB, the Interior ministry, and Russian police. The real target however appears to be a rogue oligarch with a checkered career, Boris Berezovsky.
" But he hinted that the real mastermind behind the plot to kill the campaigning journalist was a Russian citizen living abroad who had arranged the murder to discredit the Kremlin and Vladimir Putin, the Russian president. Asked whether he meant the exiled oligarch Boris Berezovsky, Mr Chaika refused to answer but smiled."
While speaking out against the Putin government, Berezovsky has a history of shady dealings which include association with Chechen kidnapping rings, the bankruptcy of Aeroflot, and possible involvement in the murder of American journalist Paul Klebnikov who had written an unflattering biography as noted here:
"Russia Blog reader likely won't be feeling sorry for Mr. Berezovsky – he was profiled in “Godfather of the Kremlin”, the book written by the late Forbes journalist Paul Klebnikov. In his book, Mr. Klebnikov alleged that Berezovsky ordered several contract killings of rivals while amassing his vast personal fortune. Berezovsky became one of the most hated men in Russia during the late 1990s, when he took advantage of Boris Yeltsin's drunkeness to manipulate the President's daughter Tatyana Dyachenko and take control of the Kremlin. Klebnikov described how Berezovsky “negotiated” with the Chechen commanders behind Yeltsin’s back, even while Russian troops were being slaughtered in Chechnya. Once Berezovsky was outmaneuvered by Putin’s siloviki faction, the oligarch fled to London, where he funded opposition groups in Russia while proclaiming that he was just another innocent businessman crushed by the evil ex-KGB officer."
Meanwhile Novaya Gazetta (which now has just started an English version on the Web) has an interesting article which suggests there may be even more to come.
"The number of the arrested and those who are to be arrested says about several points. First, one may assume that separate investigations by Prosecutor General’s Office and by the Novaya Gazeta came to at least two stable criminal groups that cooperate “fruitfully” with each other. This is interpenetration of crime and law enforcement bodies that Anna wrote about many times. This is absence of control that makes warrant officers and majors sell their official powers. It must be stressed that this is the joint business established years ago and based on the grave crime and offence. If we unraveled this tangle, then the details of many celebrated unsolved cases would be disclosed.
Second, the murder was planned and prepared meticulously by professionals who had had experience of solving such kind of “problems”.
Third, it cost expensive. It’s too early to talk about those who ordered this murder; coming elections considering that may cause political special operations around circumstances of the crime. Besides, we don’t have guarantees that real clients’ names will be mentioned in the indictment. And that wouldn’t be investigation’s fault.
We have repeated many times that we don’t have claims against those who investigate the murder of the Novaya Gazeta’s journalist. We are collaborating, and the mutual opinion is that this collaboration is effective. We just want to be sure that certain “rational reasons” that don’t relate to this matter directly, wouldn’t influence the outcome of our joint work. The outcome we need is clear. The killers, accomplices and real clients of this murder must be established and convicted.
Analyzing circumstances of Anna’s death we reconstructed approximately the crime. The mediators got the order in spring or summer 2006. In the beginning of September Politkovskaya began to be shadowed. Before that, her actual address of residence (she had moved to a flat on Lesnaya Street not long before that) was established using facilities of the special service. She was shadowed from morning till night. Generally, Anya was very careful, considering the number of hidden and evident threats. She always reported to editorial staff about all “peculiarities” that happened to her and her relatives.
But in the end of August and beginning of September the situation was different. Her mother was in hospital and they just had buried the father. Anya’s route was practically same those days, differently from her usual working days. In the morning she had a walk with her dog, and then she went shopping and came to see her mother in the hospital. In the afternoon she took again her dog for a walk and late in the day she came to hospital again. When you have problems about your relatives you don’t care of yourself too much. Anya mentioned, though, some strange people hat she met on her staircase.
Yes, those strange people, to put it more exactly one man, really had to be met by her. We think that the killer had at least twice entered the block of flats before, following Politkovskaya and scouting the place. 7 October at 16:01 he fired 5 shots. The first and the fifth bullet (checking shot) were shot into the head. Remodeled gas gun with silencer was left at the crime scene. This gun had no crime records before.
The killer rushed out from the entrance, got in a car and left the crime scene. The publication of the frames fixing all this, made by someone and passed to the journalists, prejudiced the investigation very much.
As you understand, there are a lot of essential details laying behind this laconic chronicle that cannot be disclosed yet.
We often hear questions and reproaches why investigation takes so long and why we journalists say “no comment” for long time.
About term of investigation. Anna Politkovskaya published over 500 articles in the Novaya Gazeta. Almost each of them could have been the reason of the murder. It’s not only materials about Chechnya. The geography is rather large. It’s Dagestan, Ingushetia, Kabardino-Balkaria, Astrakhan, Bashkiria, St. Petersburg, and Moscow. That is why initially there were many versions. One of the first ones was about special squad officer in the city of Khanty-Mansiysk whose family name is Lapin. This man threatened Politkovskaya many times. Now he is being tried in the court about another case. Lapin’s accomplices, who are also officers, were wanted by the federal security service. The investigation of Politkovskaya’s murder had questions to them too. One of them was found in the city of Khanty-Mansiysk. He didn’t hide; he lived at home and continued his service. But it turned out that those people didn’t have any relation to this murder.
This way, step by step, version by version, the skilful investigative work was done.
Many things were happening around these two investigations – ours and the official one. Agent provocateurs tried to foul the trail and distract the investigation. Some people tried to get the money offered by the Novaya’s shareholder Alexander Lebedev as consideration for the information given. There were also threats and we will tell about it later."