Official Arrested in Killing of Famed Russian Journalist

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The former head of a district in Chechnya has been arrested on suspicion of organizing the execution-style murder of investigative journalist Anna Politkovskaya, a Russian newspaper reported Saturday.

Law enforcement agents detained Shamil Burayev on Thursday as he drove his car in Moscow, the tabloid daily Komsomolskaya Pravda reported. The Basmanny District Court sanctioned his arrest a day later on suspicion of “organizing a murder,” the paper said, citing unnamed law enforcement officials.

Neither police nor prosecutors could be reached for comment early Saturday morning.

Prosecutor General Yuri Chaika has said the Oct. 7 murder of Politkovskaya was organized by a Chechen criminal group in Moscow that specialized in contract killings.

Among the 10 suspects who had been detained were five law enforcement officers, including an officer with the Federal Security Service, accused of tracking Politkovskaya and providing her killers with information, he said. At least two of the suspects have been released.

Chaika did not name those arrested, but he said Politkovskaya knew the person who ordered the killing and had met with him. The Federal Security Service – Russia’s main security agency – later identified its arrested officer as Lt. Col. Pavel Ryaguzov.

Komsomolskaya Pravda said Burayev was arrested after information emerged during the court case about Ryaguzov’s arrest that Ryaguzov had allegedly passed Politkovksaya’s address to Burayev.

Burayev was the head of Chechnya’s Achkoi-Martan district administration for eight years until 2003, when, the newspaper reported, he was fired by then-Chechen President Akhmad Kadyrov.

Politkovskaya’s persistent reporting of atrocities against civilians in war-scarred Chechnya had angered the Kremlin and the Kremlin-backed Chechen leadership, but won her international acclaim.

Her killing deepened western concerns about the safety of journalists and government critics in President Vladimir Putin’s Russia.

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