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Nine charged in connection with the murder of Anna Politkovskaya

Russian prosecutors on Thursday charged nine people, including five with links to President Putin’s security services, over the murder last year of the courageous investigative journalist Anna Politkovskaya.
According to the Russian Interfax news agency, those arrested include Lt-Col Pavel Ryaguzov, a senior officer of the Federal Security Service (FSB), the successor organization to the KGB.
Politkovskaya, an outspoken critic of Putin, was shot dead in her Moscow apartment building on the President’s birthday on October 7 last year. Some have even suggested it was a “birthday present” to Putin from his former colleagues at the FSB.
Politkovskaya is the most prominent of the 47 journalists who have been murdered in Russia in recent years. (Most of those murders remain unsolved.)
I attended a moving one-day “memorial conference” dedicated to Politkovskaya earlier this month, on the first anniversary of her murder.
The conference was held at the head offices of Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) in Prague, the news organization to whom Politkovskaya had given her final interview criticizing Putin shortly before she was assassinated.
Dmitry Muratov, the editor-in-chief of the newspaper for which Politkovskaya worked, Novaya Gazeta, told the conference by video link from Moscow that “Russian law enforcement officers assisted, helped and participated in Anna’s killing.” (The newspaper is one of the last remaining free media outlets in Russia, although Muratov said the authorities had recently been intimidating advertisers to withdraw their ads from the paper in an attempt to financially strangle it into closure. Their English version is at http://en.novayagazeta.ru.)
RFE/RL, together with the Congressional Human Rights Caucus, also held a follow up conference and memorial day for Politkovskaya, a few days later in Washington. Former World Chess Champion Garry Kasparov, who will stand as an alternative candidate for president next year in Russia, was the keynote speaker.
It was also clear from these events that Jeffrey Gedmin, the new president of RFE/RL, is doing important work reviving the station. RFE/RL broadcasts pro-democratic, but unbiased news in dozens of languages to countries that include some of the most important from an American foreign policy standpoint: Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Russia.
It is quite possible that the RFE/RL conferences, together with street protests earlier this month by ordinary citizens in Russia, helped increase the pressure on Putin that led to this week’s arrests in the case.

Tom GrossTom Gross is a former Middle East correspondent for the London Sunday Telegraph and the New York Daily News.

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