15 years on, editors warn time up for justice in Politkovskaya murder

Moscow (AFP) –


Russians were set Thursday to commemorate the killing of top journalist Anna Politkovskaya 15 years ago on President Vladimir Putin's birthday, while her newspaper warned time had run out to name the mastermind of the murder.

Politkovskaya, a fierce critic of Putin and the Kremlin's brutal wars in Chechnya, was gunned down on October 7, 2006, in the entrance hall of her Moscow apartment block. She was 48 years old.

Falling on Putin's birthday, the killing of a top investigative reporter -- who worked for Russia's top independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta and contributed to Western publications including the Guardian -- sent shockwaves around the world.

"Fifteen years after the murder of our journalist, the statute of limitations on the crime has expired. By law, only a court can extend it," Novaya Gazeta wrote on the eve of the anniversary.

"Otherwise, the masterminds will go unpunished."

The commemorative events at Novaya Gazeta's editorial offices come amid an unprecedented crackdown on the opposition and independent media, with authorities imprisoning Russia's top opposition politician Alexei Navalny.

In 2014, a court sentenced two men to life in prison for Politkovskaya's killing and handed lengthy prison terms to three others involved.

Lom-Ali Gaitukayev, a Chechen man who was found guilty of organising the hit, died in 2017 in a penal colony where he was serving a life sentence.

But 15 years on, investigators have yet to say who ordered the apparent contract killing, and Novaya Gazeta says the authorities have no real interest in pursuing the investigation any further for political reasons.

Politkovskaya's office at Novaya Gazeta has been preserved to honour the slain reporter.

In 2018, the European Court of Human Rights condemned Russia for failing to take adequate steps to find those who ordered Politkovskaya to be killed.

Judges concluded that Russian investigators should have explored possibilities that the crime was ordered by "agents of Russia's FSB domestic secret service or of the administration of the Chechen Republic".

Politkovskaya won numerous awards for her reports and books, and several awards were established in her name.