10 Held in Russian Journalist's Killing

The Associated Press
Monday, August 27, 2007; 4:04 PM

MOSCOW -- Under pressure to solve the contract-style killing of journalist and Kremlin critic Anna Politkovskaya, Russia's chief prosecutor announced Monday the arrest of 10 suspects, including a Chechen crime boss and five law enforcement officers.

Prosecutor General Yuri Chaika refused to say who was suspected of ordering the Oct. 7 shooting of Politkovskaya, whose tireless chronicling of the killings, kidnappings and torture of civilians in war-scarred Chechnya had angered the Kremlin and the Moscow-backed Chechen leadership.

But he said that only someone living outside Russia would have an interest in killing Politkovskaya, with the aim of discrediting President Vladimir Putin and destabilizing the country ahead of national elections.

The prosecutor appeared to be referring to tycoon Boris Berezovsky, a former Kremlin insider who is one of Putin's fiercest critics and lives in Britain, where he has refugee status.

In implicating Russia's enemies abroad, Chaika echoed statements by Putin shortly after Politkovskaya's death that "people who are hiding from Russian law enforcement have been hatching plans to sacrifice someone and create an anti-Russian wave in the world."

The Kremlin has pointed the finger at Berezovsky in this and other killings that have gained worldwide attention and blackened the reputation of Putin's Russia.

Berezovsky said Monday the effort to link him to Politkovskaya's death was a "hysterical reaction" to his criticism of Putin.

Chaika's conclusion was met with some skepticism by media rights organizations and editors at Politkovskaya's newspaper, Novaya Gazeta.

"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," Reporters Without Borders said in a statement.

Sergei Sokolov, deputy chief editor of Novaya Gazeta, welcomed the arrests but expressed concern the case would be used for political purposes ahead of December parliamentary elections and a presidential vote in March.

"Of course ... we are concerned that in an election year, this crime may be used by different groups for their own aims," Sokolov said. "That, unfortunately, is our Russian illness and the way things work here."

Chaika said Politkovskaya's slaying was set up by a Chechen native who led a Moscow organized crime ring that specialized in contract killings. He said that those arrested included a police major and a Federal Security Service officer, as well as three former police officers, who were accused of tracking Politkovskaya and providing her killers with information. The suspected gunman was among those arrested, he said.

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