Russian investigators say they have arrested a former police officer in connection with the murder of journalist Anna Politkovskaya and are close to determining who ultimately ordered the hit.
Valery Markin, a spokesman for Russia’s federal Investigative Committee, said that a retired lieutenant colonel from the Moscow police, Dmitry Pavlyuchenkov, was arrested August 23 on suspicions of organizing Politkovskaya’s murder in October 2006.
“Investigations have revealed that Pavlyuchenkov, in return for a cash payment, received an order to organize Politkovskaya’s murder,” Markin said.
The spokesman added that Pavlyuchenkov, who at the time was in charge of several surveillance police units in the city, is believed to have used his staff to track Politkovskaya’s daily routine and her movements around the city.
Pavlyuchenkov also allegedly employed a group of people to plan and carry out the murder, which took place in the entryway of Politkovskaya’s Moscow apartment building as she was carrying in groceries from her car.
This group reportedly included three Chechen brothers who have been at the center of earlier investigations into the killing. One of the brothers, Rustam Makhmudov, was arrested this spring on suspicion of being the man who shot Politkovskaya four times at point-blank range.
The arrest of Pavlyuchenkov five years after the murder may finally bring investigators one step closer to resolving the murder of one of Russia’s best-known journalist crusaders.
Politkovskaya covered human rights abuses in Chechnya for the newspaper “Novaya Gazeta” and was a vocal critic of both the Kremlin and the leadership in Chechnya. Pavlyuchenkov’s arrest was first announced by the newspaper’s editor in chief, Dmitry Muratov.
Anna Stavitskaya, a lawyer for Politkovskaya’s family, spoke of a “turning point” in the investigation, and said relatives had “long suspected” that Pavlyuchenkov — who had served as a key witness in hearings against the Makhmudov brothers — was himself involved in the killing.
With the alleged organizer of the murder now in police custody, fresh questions may arise about who ultimately ordered the killing — and why.
Investigative Committee spokesman Markin said on August 24 that investigators have information about the person believed to have ordered the murder, but said it would be “premature” to make such information public.
Rights activists, however, say they are skeptical that investigators are ready to name any “zakazchiki,” or clients, in the high-profile and deeply sensitive case.
“I don’t particularly trust loud announcements,” Lev Ponomaryov of the “For Human Rights” movement told the Interfax news agency. “I suspect the identity of any ‘zakazchik’ will end up being predetermined.”
with agency reports