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Russia28 February 2007

Interim Chechen president’s claims undermine search for truth in Politkovskaya case

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Reporters Without Borders voiced scepticism today about a claim made by Chechnya’s acting President Ramzan Kadyrov at a news conference in Grozny on 20 February that Boris Berezovsky (a Russian businessman and former politician now living in exile in Britain) ordered the murders of journalist Anna Politkovskaya and former KGB spy Alexander Litvinenko.

Kadyrov claimed that he was personally present at meetings at which Berezovsky compromised himself and that Berezovsky, aided by Litvinenko, had financed Chechen separatist fighters with the aim of destroying Russia.

A member of the staff of Politkovskaya’s newspaper Novaya Gazeta, Viacheslav Izmayilov, has responded to Kadyrov in an article published in the newspaper, calling on him to go to the police with his information and pointing out that others close to the Russian government have also tried to put the blame on Berezovsky.

“At Novaya Gazeta, we have explored several theories with the inspectors in charge of investigating Anna Politkovskaya’s murder and all of them are different from this one,” Izmayilov said. “The men in charge of the Politkovskaya investigation do not believe in this lie, and they are the most honest in men in their force.”

Izmayilov said he knew who had made a statement accusing Berezovsky - an individual known as “Pirate” who has been involved in hostage-trafficking in Chechnya and who is under pressure from the secret services. Izmayilov said Berezovsky was not one of the instigators of this trade and both the Russian interior ministry and the security service (the FSB) were in a position to know this.

Both interior ministry and FSB agents have been present at handovers of hostages in exchange for ransom, playing the role of “bag carriers,” Izmayilov added.

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