Russian journalist killed in Moscow

Politkovskaya was known for her critical coverage of the war in Chechnya.

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October 7, 2006 19:49
3 minute read.
Russian journalist killed in Moscow

russia death 298.88. (photo credit: AP)

An award-winning journalist known for her critical coverage of the war in Chechnya was shot to death Saturday in her Moscow apartment building, police and prosecutors said. Anna Politkovskaya, 48, was found dead in an elevator, a duty officer at a central Moscow police station told The Associated Press. She had been shot to death, and a pistol and four bullets were found nearby, the Interfax news agency reported, citing police officials. What's new on JPost.com Her death is being investigated as a murder, said Svetlana Petrenko, a spokeswoman for Moscow Prosecutor Yuri Syomin. Prosecutors suspect the killing was connected to her work, Vyacheslav Raskinsky, Moscow's first deputy prosecutor, told Interfax. The slaying took place at about 4:30 p.m. (1130 GMT) in Politkovskaya's apartment building, Dmitry Muratov, editor in chief of the Novaya Gazeta newspaper where she worked, told Ekho Moskvy radio. NTV television reported that she was shot after entering the building and elevator. Politkovskaya, a tireless investigative reporter and highly respected journalist, was well-known for chronicling the killings, tortures and beatings of civilians by Russian servicemen in reports that put her on a collision course with the authorities. Her reporting won numerous international awards. She also wrote a book critical of Russian President Vladimir Putin and his military campaign in Chechnya, documenting widespread abuse of civilians by government troops. Her most recent book was called simply "Putin's Russia." "Whenever the question arose whether there is honest journalism in Russia, almost every time the first name that came to mind was Politkovskaya," said Oleg Panfilov, director of the Moscow-based Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations. He said Politkovskaya had frequently received threats, and that a few months ago, unknown assailants had tried unsuccessfully to break into a car her daughter, Vera, was driving. In 2001, she fled to Vienna, Austria, for several months after receiving e-mail threats alleging that a Russian police officer she had accused of committing atrocities against civilians was intent on revenge. Police officer Sergei Lapin was detained in 2002 based on Politkovskaya's allegations but the case against him was closed the following year. "There are journalists who have this fate hanging over them. I always thought something would happen to Anya, first of all because of Chechnya," Panfilov said, referring to Politkovskaya by her nickname. Politkovskaya began reporting on Chechnya in 1999 during Russia's second military campaign there, concentrating less on military engagements than on the human side of the war. She wrote about the Chechen inhabitants of refugee camps and wounded Russian soldiers - until she was banned from visiting the hospitals, Panfilov said. In 2004, she fell seriously ill with symptoms of food poisoning after drinking tea on a flight from Moscow to southern Russia during the school hostage crisis in Beslan, where many thought she was heading to mediated the crisis. Her colleagues suspected the incident was an attempt on her life. She had been one of the few people to enter the Moscow theater where Chechen militants seized hundreds of hostages in October 2002 to try negotiating with the rebels. "Anna was a hero to so many of us, and we'll miss her personally, but we'll also miss the information that she and only she was brave enough and dedicated enough to dig out and make public, and that's a loss that I'm not sure can ever be replaced," said Joel Simon, executive director of the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists. Politkovskaya's murder is the highest-profile killing of a journalist in Russia since they July 2004 slaying of Paul Klebnikov, editor of the Russian edition of Forbes magazine. Russia has become one of the deadliest countries for journalists. Twenty-three journalists were killed in Russia between 1996 and 2005, many in Chechnya, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. At least 12 have been murdered in contract-style killings since Putin came to power, Simon said. "None of those have been adequately investigated," he said. "We do know that record creates an environment where those who might seek to carry out this murder would feel that there would be few likely consequences." In addition to her daughter, Politkovskaya is survived by a son, Ilya, Panfilov said. Two German journalists were also killed on Saturday while traveling through northern Afghanistan, the Interior Ministry said. The two, a man and a woman, were traveling from Baghland province to Bamiyan province, said Zemari Bashary, the Interior Ministry spokesman. He said the two spent the night in a tent and were killed by unidentified gunmen. The two were working for the German news agency Deutsche Welle, according to Wakil Asas, a reporter for the company in Kabul.


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