Russia - Concern about prosecutor's comments as he announces 10 arrests in Politkovskaya murder

    MONTREAL, Aug. 27 /CNW Telbec/ - The arrests, announced today, of
10 people including interior ministry and FSB (security service) officials for
last October's murder of journalist Anna Politkovskaya have taken nearly a
year and are the first concrete sign of progress in the case, although,
according to Vladimir Putin in December, it has been assigned "the best police
and judicial professionals," Reporters Without Borders said.
    "We hope this announcement has not been made solely to defuse the
protests of NGOs and questions from journalists who want the case solved," the
press freedom organisation said. "We have in the past seen announcements by
the Russian authorities that have been made just for effect. And most of the
investigations into the murders of journalists have never been concluded."
    Reporters Without Borders continued: "We are concerned that unnamed
persons 'outside Russia' have been identified as the masterminds of
Politkovskaya's murder. Contrary to what the prosecutor-general says, there
were people inside the country interested in silencing her and the
investigation should be looking into this."
    The organisation also regretted that the identity and motives of the
suspects are still unknown. "The confidentiality of the investigation and the
presumption of innocence are essential but it is important that we should be
able to obtain more information quickly and it is perhaps also time that a
trial date is set."
    Today's announcement of the arrest of 10 suspects was made by
prosecutor-general Yuri Chaika, who claimed that Politkovskaya's murder was
carried out by a group led by "the head of a Moscow crime ring of Chechen
origin" that included former and current interior ministry and FSB officials.
    Four days ago, the head of the Russian commission that was set up
specially to investigate the murder, Alexandre Bastrykin, said "six versions
of the Anna Politkovskaya murder are being examined" and "good prospects are
emerging that it will solved."
    At a news conference today, Chaika said persons based "outside Russia"
who wanted to "destabilise the country" were behind her murder. "As regards
the murder's motives, the results of the investigation (...) lead us to the
conclusion that the persons who had an interest in eliminating Politkovskaya
could only live outside Russia," he said.
    Politkovskaya, who wrote extensively about human rights violations in the
northern Caucasus for the newspaper Novaya Gazeta, was gunned down in her
central Moscow apartment building on 7 October 2006. She told the BBC shortly
before her death that President Putin had deliberated provoked terrorist acts,
including the hostage-taking in a Moscow theatre in 2002. Her murder, which
was widely condemned internationally, highlighted the dangers that opposition
journalists face in Russia.

    Reporters Without Borders defends imprisoned journalists and press
freedom throughout the world. It has nine national sections (Austria, Belgium,
Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland). It has
representatives in Bangkok, London, New York, Tokyo and Washington. And it has
more than 120 correspondents worldwide.

For further information:

For further information: Emily Jacquard, Directrice générale, Reporters
Without Borders, (514) 521-4111, Cell: (514) 258-4208, Fax: (514) 521-7771,

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