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Oct. 25, 2006
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Murderers of Politkovskaya May Be Hiding in Siberia
// Local police officers are under suspicion
Former officers of Nizhnevartovsks police could be involved in the murder of Novaya Gazetas columnist Anna Politkovskaya. The journalist helped to put one of them in prison while two other officers were placed on the international wanted list and six more are still under suspicion.
The investigation team of the murder of Anna Politkovskaya went to Nizhnevartovsk, Khanty-Mansi Autonomous Area in Siberia last week. They received information that two former police officers Major Alexander Prilepin and Lieutenant Colonel Valery Minin were seen in the city. The men are wanted internationally for crimes they committed in Chechnya.

The investigators, however, did not find the men in the city but they interrogated Prilepin and Minins relatives and former colleagues.

Between 2002 and 2005, Anna Politkovskaya wrote several stories in Novaya Gazeta about the murder of Zelimkhan Murdalov, 30, from Grozny in January 2001. The journalist learnt that the Chechen was detained for no clear reason by police officers who went from Siberia to Chechnya. The men killed Murdalov, hid his body to cover up tracks. Politkovskaya was the first to name possible perpetrators of the crime Senior Lieutenant Sergey Lapin from Nizhnevartovsk and his commanders, Major Prilepin and Colonel Lieutenant Minin. She wrote later that these officers and some other employees of the Interior Ministry were involved in the killing of Zelimkhan Murdalov and dozen of other Chechen civilians.

Sergey Lapin was sentenced to 11 years in prison last March. His accomplices are still on the wanted list.

I cannot say that articles by Anna Politkovskaya influenced the trial and the subsequent verdict, Stanislav Markelov, lawyer of the relatives of the slain Chechen, says. Still, the officers believed that she was the motor of the case, and they put the blame for all their problems on her.

Journalists from Novaya Gazeta recall that Anna Politkovskaya received letters, emails and phone calls with threats during preliminary investigation and even after the trial of Sergey Lapin.

Politkovskaya was shot dead on October 7, and officers from Nizhnevartovsk also came under suspicion. Lapin is not among them he is currently serving his term in a prison in Nizhny Tagil. Moscow investigators, however, keep an eye on his relatives. They have already interrogated Lapins father and sister.

It is no accident that the investigators questioned the officers sister. The latest theory of Politkovskayas murder has it that at least three people were involved in the killing, including a man and a young woman who were following the journalist. They appeared in footage of close circuit cameras at the Ramstore shop. The perpetrator of the crime is believed to be a tall ethnic Slavonic man who had sporty or army bearing, as witnesses say. Investigators have already drawn the portrait of the suspect. It has not been published, though, due to security reasons. The Prosecutor Generals Office hopes that the man will be recognized by military men or police officers from Chechnya without publicity and will be caught soon.

Sergey Mashkin, Andrey Salnikov and Ruslan Sakaev from Ekaterinburg

All the Article in Russian as of Oct. 25, 2006

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