Members of the Russian security services were involved in a conspiracy with organised crime to assassinate Anna Politkovskaya, the investigative journalist, the country’s chief prosecutor announced yesterday.
Yuri Chaika said that ten people had been arrested for the murder, five of whom were officers of the Federal Security Service (FSB), the successor to the KGB, and the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MVD).
They had tracked Ms Politkovskaya and passed information about her movements to a gang of Chechen hit men who had carried out the killing. She was shot in the lift of her apartment building on October 7, President Putin’s 54th birthday.
“The group was headed by the leader of a Moscow criminal group of Chechen origin,” Mr Chaika, the Prosecutor-General, said. Those arrested included “the organisers, accomplices and hitmen”.
The arrest of security service officers brings the inquiry uncomfortably close to the authorities, whom Ms Politkovskaya had accused repeatedly of collaborating with criminals to eliminate opponents of the Kremlin.
Mr Chaika insisted that the FSB and MVD played no role in the assassination of one of Mr Putin’s most vehement critics. He described the arrested men as “black sheep” in the organisations.
“Former and current officials of the Interior Ministry, as well as officials of the Federal Security Service, helped to follow her and supplied information,” he told a press conference in Moscow. “Their role was to organise surveillance of Politkovskaya and to collect information. They were accomplices. One of them was a police major.
He was sacked on the day of his arrest. Another was an official of the Federal Security Service – he was also sacked – and there were another three policemen.” The FSB later named Pavel Ryaguzov, a lieutenant-colonel, as one of the suspects, saying that he was arrested on August 21.