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New charges filed in killing of Russian journalist

MOSCOW – Russian investigators marked the 5th anniversary of journalist Anna Politkovskaya's killing today by filing new charges against suspects involved in the slaying, but they have remained silent about who might have ordered her murder.

Politkovskaya, a sharp critic of the Kremlin and its policies in Chechnya, was gunned down in the elevator of her Moscow apartment building on October 7, 2006. The brutal attack drew worldwide attention to violence against journalists in Russia and caused widespread suspicions of government involvement.

Russia's top investigative body said it's filing formal charges today against Lom-Ali Gaitukayev, a native of Chechnya accused of organizing the killing. It said it will also bring new accusations against the suspected triggerman, Rustam Makhmudov and several orther suspects.

Makhmudov's two brothers and another suspect, former Moscow police officer Sergei Khadzhikurbanov, stood trial on charges of helping stage the killing, but a court found them not guilty in 2009. The Russian Supreme Court overruled the acquittal and has sent the case back to prosecutors. Makhmudov and Gaitukayev – uncle of the Makhmudov brothers – have been detained earlier.

The Investigative Committee said that it will bring new charges today against Khadzhikurbanov and the two Makhmudov brothers, Dzhabrail and Ibragim. Khadzhikurbanov has been in custody, while the two Chechen brothers are free but have been requested not to leave town. The Committee had told the public earlier about the accusations against Gaitukayev and others, and today's statement was a clear attempt to demonstrate a progress in the case.

The investigators also said that Dmitry Pavlyuchenkov, who was a senior police offficer at the time of the killing, is accused of tracking down Politkovskaya's movements to help stage the killing. Pavlyuchenkov, who served as a witness during the abortive first trial, was arrested in August.

Politkovskaya's Novaya Gazeta newspaper has welcomed the detention of the suspected shooter and other suspects, but lamented a slow progress on finding a person who ordered the killing and described Friday's step as a mere formality. Politkovskaya's son, Ilya, also criticized authorities for failing to track down the mastermind.

"Five years after we only have suspects accused of staging the killing," he said, according to RIA Novosti news agency. "It could have been done much earlier. A lot of time has been lost."

Politkovskaya was killed on birthday of Vladimir Putin, who was serving his second presidential term at the time, and that helped fuel speculations about possible involvement of authorities angered by Politkovskaya's exposure of atrocities in Chechnya.

"She was challenging the dominant power of the government with her lonely efforts," Novaya Gazeta said on its front-page carrying a photo of Politkovskaya.

Putin made his first public remarks on Politkovskaya's death a few days after, saying that she had little influence and that her slaying did more harm to Russia than her articles did. Putin, who turned 59 today, is now Russia's prime minister and is all but certain to reclaim presidency in next March's elections.

Earlier this week, Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov dismissed allegations of possible government involvement in Politkovskaya's killing in remarks broadcast by independent TV station Dozhd (Rain). "People, are you crazy to associate this with Putin?" he said.

Politkovskaya's colleagues marked the anniversary of her death by opening a Facebook account dedicated to her memory, posting her pictures, books and favorite music.

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