Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya shot dead

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Saturday, October 7, 2006

A Russian journalist, Anna Politkovskaya, who received wide acclaim and prominence for her critical coverage of the Chechen war and opposition to the Putin administration, was found shot dead at her apartment building in Moscow today. Coincidentally, October 7 is the birthday of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Anna Politkovskaya worked for the Novaya Gazeta newspaper. She rose to fame for her coverage of the human costs of the Chechen conflict and her harsh criticism of the Kremlin's policies on Chechnya. She was also one of the people who went into the Moscow theatre during the 2002 hostage taking to attempt negotiations, at the behest of the Chechen militants.

Politkovskaya was found shot dead in an elevator in her apartment block in central Moscow, the Associated Press reports, citing police sources. The Interfax news agency reports that her body was found by a neighbour and that four cartridges and a handgun were also found in the elevator. Her death has been confirmed by Dmitry Muratov, editor of the Novaya Gazeta and Moscow prosecutors.

She was 48 years old and was writing her fourth non-fiction work, Putin's Russia. Her earlier books include Under Putin and A Dirty War: A Russian Reporter in Chechnya and A Small Corner of Hell: Dispatches from Chechnya. She won several awards for her work on the Chechen conflict.

Politkovskaya had received threats before. She moved to Vienna for a short time in 2001 after receiving e-mail warnings that a Russian police officer, Sergei Lapin, who she had accused of atrocities, was seeking revenge. In 2005, Lapin was found guilty of crimes against Chechen civilians and sentenced to 11 years imprisonment.

During the 2004 Beslan school siege, Politkovskaya was taken ill with suspected food-poisoning. The incident was suspected by some of her colleagues to be a deliberate attempt at poisoning.

President Putin, breaking the two days' silence, vowed Monday 9 October to track down Politkovskaya's killers.

The funeral will be held on Tuesday, 10 October, at 2 p.m., at the Troyekurovskoye Cemetery in Moscow.