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Politkovskaya murder: suspects named

A Russian newspaper has published the names of the suspects arrested in connection with the killing of journalist Anna Politkovskaya last October. Among those being held by police are ethnic Chechens and former members of the Russian police and Security s

According to lawyer of one of the defendants, charges have been brought against at least four out of the ten suspects arrested in the Politkovskaya murder case.  The Prosecutor General's office has refused to comment on the statement.

Defence lawyer Murad Musaev says he thinks the charges look vague.

“In such cases we say we hope it's a mistake, but fear it's a provocation. Indeed, the prosecutor's statement sounded like a compilation of popular clichés but we can't state anything for sure, because we know nothing about the case. Nobody will instruct us on it until the investigation's been completed, which could be one month, half-a-year, a year,” Mr Musaev said, and then continued: “All I can do now for my client is try to help him remember what he did on the day of this murder and we need to come up with ideas how to prove that. It's hard to believe now that I've spoken to these people that any of them has anything to do with this crime.”

“My client is a lawyer and also has a degree in economics,” Mr Musaev added: “He is in quite a depressed state. It's the moral state of a person who's been suddenly grabbed out on the street, who hasn't even thought he might be behind bars especially for a murder, and who is now talked of in the media as if he is a murderer and of course after having been treated like that by the police he is quite upset.”

Outside Russia there's been cautious optimism that the arrests signal real progress in the investigation.

U.S. has expressed cautious optimism. The TASS news agency quotes State Department representative Chase Beamer as saying:

“We are encouraged by the fact that the Russian justice system is working out this case. However, before giving further comment we prefer to wait for more details.”

And the U.S. Ambassador to Russia, William Burns, has welcomed progress in Anna Politkovskaya's murder case saying it's essential for Russia to restore justice.

“Progress in this investigation is clearly welcome. And something that encourages us is that it is a case in which it is extremely important for Russians to bring to justice those responsible for the murder of Anna Politkovskaya,” Mr Burns said.

United States Senator Richard Lugar is the latest to comment on the arrests saying that America approves any legal system that is aimed at keeping journalists safe…
“Well, I am not going to attempt to critique the specific case, it is a serious one and it has brought great attention in the U.S. which Russians know. The Russian legal system is working to bring about other hope, safety for Russian journalists not to simply be approved in America. But we are approving those who are working for justice and Russia is to make certain that journalists are safe.”

Western media focuses on the alleged involvement of Russian security service officials accused of tracking Politkovskaya and then passing information to her killers.

Allegations that the murder was controlled from abroad has led to France’s Le Figaro describing them as a “thinly veiled allusion” to exiled oligarch Boris Berezovsky.

“The prosecutor implicated persons living ”beyond Russia“, a thinly veiled allusion to Boris Berezovsky.”

Berezovsky previously described Politkosvskaya as a friend, denying involvement.

“What the Attorney-General suggested is that those behind, those who ordered the killing are outside of the Russian Federation which sounds to me quite logical. Of course the murder of Anna Politkovskaya is of no interest to the Russian government. It caused enormous PR problems to the government of the Russian Federation. In my view the idea that some of the purged oligarchs may have something to do with the murder is quite logical because for those oligarchs who are wanted by Russian justice, who are accused of many crimes inside the country, it is very important to look like they are political figures prosecuted for their political views by the repressive Russian government and they need the proof that Russian government is repressive,” commented Vyacheslav Nikonov, an analyst of Politics Foundation.

Germany's Die Zeit notes it’s taken nearly a year to make arrests, quoting suggestions this reflects a half-hearted approach from Russia.

“Government critics accuse the Russian justice system of only half-heartedly searching for the murderers.”

Meanwhile, Ramzan Kadyrov, the Chechen president, at whom Politkovskaya directed her fiercest criticism, has backed the arrest of ethnic Chechens among the 10, saying these people should have been dealt with long ago.

There still seems to be a degree of caution and suspicion abroad albeit combined with some recognition that progress is being made.

Russian newspapers also give most column inches to the latest developments in the Politkovskaya case.