The Russian general prosecutor says contract killers were behind the murder of investigative journalists Anna Politkovskaya and American Paul Klebnikov. VOA Moscow Correspondent Peter Fedynsky reports 10 suspects have been identified in the Politkovskaya killing.

Russian General Prosecutor Yuri Chaika identified the alleged mastermind in the murder of Anna Politkovskaya as a Chechen émigré who led a group of contract killers in Moscow. Chaika reported the arrest of 10 suspects in the case, including current and former employees of the Russian Interior Ministry and Federal Security Service.

Chaika says evidence about a motive points to people and entities outside of Russia interested in destabilizing the country, discrediting its leaders and returning it to a time when money and oligarchs decided everything. He says the suspects are linked to other contract killings in Latvia and Ukraine.

Prosecutor Chaika says the investigation revealed evidence that the group also murdered the editor of the Russian edition of Forbes Magazine, American Paul Klebnikov, as well as the deputy director of Russia's Central Bank, Andrei Kozlov, and his driver.

Paul Klebnikov, also an investigative journalist, was gunned down in Moscow three years ago. Politkovskaya was shot last October in the stairwell of her apartment building in central Moscow. She worked for the independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta, where she documented war crimes in Chechnya. She was also very critical of the Kremlin.

Her murder sparked an international outcry, though President Putin initially dismissed her work as having minor influence on Russian politics.

Politkovskaya's journalistic colleagues suspect she was gunned down to prevent publication of a report she was preparing about allegations of torture in Chechnya. Russian armed forces have been waging a bloody and costly war against separatists in that region of southern Russia.

Political observer Masha Lipman at the Moscow Carnegie Center told VOA that Russian authorities have not kept the public well-informed about the Politkovskaya investigation, nor has the public demanded an accounting of the murder.

Lipman says society has been largely indifferent to the crime. She adds that sporadic statements about the killing by the authorities seem like rituals in a society that is not likely to be very concerned about the prosecutor's announcement.

The Politkovskaya and Klebnikov murders have highlighted the risks journalists face in Russia. International associations of journalists estimate at least 44, and perhaps more than 80 journalists have been killed in connection with their work in the country since 1991.