October 6, 2007 / 10:45 PM / 10 years ago

Campaigners mark Politkovskaya murder anniversary

<p>A man holds a portrait of Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya during a rally in central Moscow October 8, 2006. Politkovskaya, an outspoken critic of President Vladimir Putin, was shot dead on Saturday at her apartment block in central Moscow, police said.Alexander Natruskin</p>

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Campaigners plan a series of events in Moscow and around the world on Sunday to put pressure on Russian President Vladimir Putin to catch the killers of journalist Anna Politkovskaya, murdered a year ago.

A fierce critic of Putin, the mother of two was shot dead in the lift of her Moscow apartment building on October 7 last year as she returned from shopping. No one has been convicted of her killing.

"Anna, even when she was alive, was the symbol of distinguished journalism and the symbol of not just the freedom of the press, but freedom in general," Ludmilla Alexeeva, chairwoman of the Moscow Helsinki Group human rights organization, told Reuters.

Events in cities including New York, Paris and Rome, as well as Moscow, were being held in Politkovskaya's honor.

Her friends and colleagues plan to gather in central Moscow for a photo exhibition, a silent memorial and a special concert, and a commemorative edition of her newspaper Novaya Gazeta will be published on Monday.

Putin will be in the Russian capital, too, after cutting short his attendance at a summit of Commonwealth of Independent States leaders in Central Asia and plans to celebrate his 55th birthday with a Kremlin party for top officials and friends.

Russian police briefly detained five foreign citizens who had planned to attend a human rights forum in Nizhny Novgorod,

400 km (250 miles) east of Moscow, on Saturday to commemorate the anniversary.

Politkovskaya, 48, pulled no punches in her writing, frequently accusing government and military officials of abuse of power, particularly in the conflict-racked province of Chechnya.


Her murder provoked international condemnation and Putin's critics accused the Kremlin of failing to protect freedom of speech, although the reaction at home was more muted, reflecting the fact that most Russians were ignorant of, or indifferent to, her work.

Politkovskaya's former colleagues and supporters say not enough has been done to bring her killers to justice.

"We will keep up the pressure on the government but so far, we're not satisfied," Sergei Sokolov, senior editor of Novaya Gazeta, said on Saturday.

In Paris, a tribute to Politkovskaya will be held in the Place Beaubourg and in New York, a candle and flower vigil will be held near the headquarters of the Russian mission to the United Nations.

A street was renamed in the reporter's honor in Rome last week, while events have been held in the run-up to the anniversary in cities such as Prague.

The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) wrote to Putin last week questioning aspects of the official investigation into Politkovskaya's death and urging a "thorough, transparent and unbiased" probe.

"One year later what we have in Russia is business as usual: convoluted details, conflicting information and the ones responsible for Politkovskaya's murder are still at large," said Ann Cooper, former executive director of the CPJ.

Prosecutor-General Yuri Chaika announced the arrest of 10 suspects in August and suggested that the reporter was killed by an organized crime group that included serving and former law enforcement officers.

Chaika blamed foreign enemies for plotting her murder from abroad to destabilize the country, but cited no evidence.

Additional reporting by Vivianne Rodrigues

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