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Murder of Russian Journalist Prompts Widespread Reaction


One of Russia's most prominent journalists, Anna Politkovskaya, was buried in a Moscow cemetery Tuesday after she was shot dead in her apartment building on Saturday. The murder of the investigative journalist, well known for her critical reports of the Kremlin's actions in Chechnya, has provoked widespread reaction in Moscow and abroad. Human rights activists in the Russian capital say the murder was politically motivated.

The funeral of Anna Politkovskaya attracted hundreds of people who wanted to pay tribute to the most outspoken critic of the Kremlin's actions in Chechnya, now the 13th Russian journalist murdered during President Vladimir Putin's administration.

A mother of two, Politkovskaya often traveled to the breakaway republic where she reported on cases of kidnapping, torture and other crimes -- atrocities she blamed on forces of the Russian military and the Moscow-backed government in Chechnya.

"I think that if in Russia and in the West people actually knew something about Chechnya, and about situation of civilians in Chechnya, about their tremendous sufferings, it is to a large extend due to Anna and her very brave, excellent professional work," said Tatiana Lokshina, who heads the Demos human rights group in Moscow.

Politkovskaya was murdered in her apartment building in Moscow on the evening of 7 October 2006. The killer ambushed her in the elevator, fired four shots from a silenced Makarov pistol and fled. A surveillance camera captured an image of a man leaving the building after the shooting, but no further details of his identity or motives were released.

Few of those who queued up on Monday to buy a special edition of Novaya Gazeta, the publication Politkovskaya worked for, said they believed the case will be resolved any time soon.

"Of course, the murderer will not be found," said one person, noting that things are not improving. "It's not the first death of this kind, and other people have gone away, too, and events show that it's not getting any better, only worse."

Ever since Politkovskaya's death, people have been sending flowers and letters of condolences to her office in central Moscow.

Her colleague, Galina Murzalieva, said that in a recent radio interview, Politkovskaya said she was investigating a case of alleged kidnapping, torture and murder perpetrated by Chechnya's Prime Minister Ramzan Kadyrov and his personal army of heavily armed fighters. "She said she had two photographs which show the tortures that Kadyrov's regime perpetrates in Chechnya. The story on this she was supposed to file on the day of her death."

Shortly after the killing, Prime Minister Kadyrov denied there was any Chechen involvement in the case and expressed regret over the death of the reporter.

Novaya Gazeta says it believes the murder was either an act of revenge by Kadyrov, or an attempt to discredit him. The newspaper announced a reward of more than one million dollars for information that could help find the killer and said it will conduct its own investigation into the case.

In the course of her career, Anna Politkovskaya had made many enemies - but she was so prominent that few believed anything would happen to her, including Tatiana Lokshina of Demos. "As a journalist who worked on Chechnya, on this very sensitive topic, she was frequently receiving threats," said Lokshina. "But she was working for such a long time and publishing such powerful stories and taking so many risks, that after a certain point we all started thinking that she is so much of an icon that nothing could ever happen to her, it would be too scandalous. And we were wrong, I am afraid, very tragically wrong."

According to the New-York-based Committee to Protect Journalists, Politkovskaya was at least the 43rd journalist killed for her work in Russia since 1993. Most of the murder cases remain unsolved.

Even though Politkovskaya's death provoked a reaction around the world, no one from the Russian government attended her funeral.

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