The International Press Institute (IPI) today welcomed news that Russian authorities have arrested the suspected organiser of the 2006 murder of Russian journalist and IPI World Press Freedom Hero Anna Politkovskaya.
A Moscow court on Friday ordered the arrest of former senior police officer Dmitry Pavlyuchenkov, who allegedly promised cash to the group that carried out the murder and provided them with the firearm used to kill the journalist.
Pavlyuchenkov, a retired police lieutenant colonel who was taken into custody on Tuesday, denied any role in the killing.
Investigators also announced that they had information on the alleged mastermind of the killing, on whose behalf Pavlyuchenkov acted. However, they declined the release the name, saying that doing so would be “premature”.
IPI Director Alison Bethel McKenzie said: “We are encouraged by the latest developments in the effort to bring Ms. Politkovskaya’s murderers to justice and we urge Russian authorities to pursue their investigation so that all those involved in this crime – especially those who masterminded it – face justice. We also hope that these steps signal a willingness by authorities to combat a perceived culture that allows killers to strike journalists again and again with impunity.”
IPI Vice Chair Galina Sidorova, chair of the Foundation for Investigative Journalism – Foundation 19/29 in Moscow, and former editor-in-chief of the Sovershenno Secretno monthly, similarly welcomed the arrest. However, she cautioned that “it is early to say what will come out” of the arrest and that “many questions still remain.”
She explained: “It is clear that Mr. Pavlyuchenkov, as a police officer, is one of the persons who could have ordered the pursuit of Ms. Politkovskaya and organised her murder. But the general opinion among journalists is that he is not the one who made the decision to have her killed.”
Pavlyuchenkov served as a witness in the 2009 trial of two Chechen brothers – Dzhabrail and Ibragim Makhmudov – and former police officer Sergei Khadzhikurbanov for the murder. The three were acquitted, but Russia’s Supreme Court set aside the verdict and police opened a new investigation involving the same suspects.
In June, authorities arrested a third Makhmudov brother, Rustam, the alleged triggerman.
Pavlyuchenkov sought in the earlier trial to present himself as a valuable source, but gave false information, the editor-in-chief of Politkovskaya’s Novaya Gazeta newspaper, Dmitry Muratov, said Tuesday.
Politkovskaya, a well-known Russian investigative journalist and political commentator, was found shot dead in the lift of her apartment building in Moscow on 7 Oct., 2006. She had extensively reported on the situation in Chechnya and gained international recognition for her critical reports, which drew attention to human rights abuses committed by both the local authorities and independent groups.
IPI named her a World Press Freedom Hero two months after her death at a ceremony in which then-IPI Director Johann Fritz called Politkovskaya’s nomination “a tribute to her bravery, but also an acknowledgement of the struggles of the many courageous journalists working in Russia.”
According to IPI’s Death Watch, 39 journalists have died in Russia since the beginning of 2000, including two this year. Yakhya Magomedov of the Russian Islamic newspaper As-Salam was killed 8 May in the North Caucasus republic of Dagestan when he was shot four times near the northern city of Khasavyurt. Anatoly Bitkov, the chief editor of Kolyma Plus regional television company, was found dead in his apartment on 22 May in the city of Magadan with multiple stab wounds to his head and body.