Prosecutor General announces arrests in Politkovskaya murder case

Prosecutor General Yuri Chaika has announced that Anna Politkovskaya’s murder is solved. Ten people have been arrested: three policemen, one FSB officer, and six Chechens. Chaika said the murder had been ordered by some people abroad, “determined to destabilize the situation.”

President Vladimir Putin received Prosecutor General Yuri Chaika yesterday. Chaika updated Putin on major investigations under way and called a press conference afterwards. Chaika said that ten suspects had been arrested for murder of journalist Anna Politkovskaya in Moscow on October 7, 2006 – three policemen, Federal Security Service (FSB) Lieutenant Colonel Pavel Ryaguzov (he was later identified for the media by Alexander Kupryazhkin of the FSB Internal Security), and Chechens. The policemen and Ryaguzov had followed the journalist to learn her routine and later submitted information to Chechen murderers. According to Chaika, the murder of Politkovskaya could be related to two previous crimes of similar magnitude – the murders of Central Bank executive Andrei Kozlov last year and Forbes Russia editor Paul Khlebnikov in 2004. Chaika said the suspects belonged to a gang specializing in this sort of crime.

“As for the motives, the investigation results enable us to conclude that only someone outside the territory of the Russian Federation could be interested in killing Politkovskaya,” Chaika said. “The murder plays into the hands of the people and structures aimed to destabilize the situation in Russia, change the regime, have Russia plagued with crises, plunge it back into the former system where everything was decided by cash and oligarchs, and disgrace Russian leaders. In short, we are talking of the individuals and structures which are trying to put pressure on the Russian leadership.” Journalists asked if Chaika was referring to Boris Berezovsky, but Chaika avoided the question.

Berezovsky’s lawyer Andrei Borovkov denied any interest by the Prosecutor General’s Office in his client in connection with murder of Politkovskaya. Berezovsky himself said he was not surprised by the insinuation, because the murders of Politkovskaya and FSB defector Alexander Litvinenko had been arranged “by the Kremlin.”

Arrestees’ lawyers were tight-lipped and vague in comments yesterday. One of them said, however, that three brothers, Chechens, were taken in as prime suspects. One of them is suspected as the organizer, and two others as murderers. As far as lawyers know, the Chechens did not have any personal motives compelling them to wish Politkovskaya dead. They were hired to do the job, that was all. “My client says detectives repeatedly bludgeoned him with an empty bottle, demanding a confession and saying that it was really nothing compared to what else they could do to him,” one of the arrestees’ lawyers, Murad Musayev, said. Charges under Article 105 of the Criminal Code (murder) were issued against the brothers. “In fact, the law enforcement agencies should have tackled the Chechens living in Moscow long ago,” said President Ramzan Kadyrov of Chechnya.

“That’s nonsense,” Ryaguzov’s acquaintances said. Before yesterday (before Kupryazhkin’s statement, that is), his family and colleagues were convinced he had been detained for a 2002 incident when an arrestee escaped from a car with FSB officers in Moscow (Ryaguzov was one of them). The arrestee was promptly caught and beaten – as he himself said afterwards. The incident was investigated by prosecutors who cleared the officers involved.

“That was the only incriminating incident on his record,” Ryaguzov’s colleagues said. The officer handled illegal turnover of weaponry. Gallantry displayed on trips to conflict areas earned him several decorations. As far as Ryaguzov’s colleagues are concerned, he is anything but “a renegade in uniform.” Chekists point out that the Interior Ministry never went public with the names of its officers detained as suspects yesterday.

Novaya Gazeta Chief Editor Dmitri Muradov likes the progress the investigation team has made. “Its conclusions are quite convincing and professional,” he said. Novaya Gazeta is running its own investigation all the same.

Musayev and other lawyers maintain that prosecutors are only trying to “designate” some “murderers” and report the crime solved by Politkovskaya’s birthday. She would have turned 49 on August 30.