Tue, Oct 10, 2006 - Page 6 News List

Huge reward offered for tip on journalist's killer

MEDIA MOURNS The Kremlin remained silent for a second day about Politkovskaya's murder, which most feel was triggered by her fiercely critical writing

AGENCIES , MOSCOW

Front pages of Russian newspapers are filled with portraits and articles about slain journalist Anna Politkovskaya in Moscow yesterday. Politkovskaya was a persistent critic of the Kremlin's policy on Chechnya and of President Vladimir Putin.

PHOTO: AP

The newspaper where slain Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya worked has offered a reward of almost US$1 million for information leading to her killers amid widespread international condemnation of the murder.

Politkovskaya's face stared out from the front page of every major Russian newspaper yesterday as her colleagues hailed her fearless reporting and vowed to search for her killer.

Politkovskaya's newspaper, the liberal daily Novaya Gazeta, published a front page bordered in black with a large picture of the murdered reporter. "She was beautiful," its story began.

The paper vowed in a front-page editorial: "As long as there is a Novaya Gazeta, her killers will not sleep soundly."

A shareholder in the paper has announced a 25 million ruble (US$930,000) reward for information leading to the arrest of the journalist's killer.

The apparent assassination on Saturday of Politkovskaya, the country's top investigative journalist and a fierce critic of President Vladimir Putin, was also cast as further evidence of the grim state of media freedom in today's Russia.

Politkovskaya, 48, was shot in her apartment building in an execution-style killing as she stepped out of an elevator on Saturday.

The killer shot her three times in the chest, then once in the head, and left the murder weapon at the scene, daily Kommersant cited police sources as saying.

Kommersant focused on possible motives for the murder, citing the work that made Politkovskaya a hero in the international journalistic community and a scourge for the Kremlin: investigation into the human costs of the brutal war in Chechnya.

Noting that Politkovskaya had been finishing a report on allegations of torture by the Kremlin-backed Chechen leadership, Kommersant said the killing "could change the structure of political power in Chechnya."

It said the investigation would likely target the same figure much of Politkovskaya's recent work did: Chechen Prime Minister Ramzan Kadyrov, whose private security force is accused by human rights activists of engaging in torture and kidnapping.

The EU and the US joined Russian politicians, journalists and human rights activists in condemning her killing.

The Kremlin, however, had yet to give any public reaction to the murder by yesterday morning.

Business daily Vedomosti, one of Russia's last independent dailies, lauded Politkovskaya's fearless reports from Chechnya.

"She described in such a way that the reader's heart would ache with compassion for `us' -- the officers and soldiers thrown into the crucible of war -- and for `them' -- the Chechen and Ingush families forced to flee their homes, to search for relatives cut down by the war."

It also lamented that the murder of the country's most outspoken reporters had become a familiar ritual.

"In Russia a peculiar tradition has developed to recognize the services of uncompromising reporters: murderers put a full stop to their work."

Although Politkovskaya's aggressive reporting of atrocities by Russian forces in Chechnya brought her international fame, the Kremlin-controlled media rarely gave her airtime.

Novaya Gazeta has a circulation of 171,000 in a country of 140 million people and is not widely read outside the intellectual elite. Most Russians get their news from TV, where all the main channels toe a pro-Kremlin line.

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