An Arrest in Politkovskaya Murder Case

In a stunning turn of events, a major arrest has been made in the investigation of the October 2006 murder of Russian hero journalist Anna Politkovskaya.  Nearly five years after the gangland-style killing, Lt. Col. Dmitry Pavlyuchenkov was taken into custody in Moscow and charged with organizing the horrific crime.

Now retired, in October 2006, Pavlyuchenkov was head of surveillance at Moscow's Main Internal Affairs Directorate, the city's main police force.  He was not, in other words, a lackey of Ramzan Kadyrov, the warlord of Chechnya whose forces have been routinely fingered by those who would defend the Putin Kremlin from charges of complicity in Politkovskaya’s murder.  Instead, he was a high-ranking member of the Moscow security establishment.

Sergei Sokolov, deputy editor of Novaya Gazeta, the newspaper that published most of Politkovskaya’s relentless criticism of the Putin dictatorship, said the arrest offers the possibility of following the trail of blood into the upper reaches of the Kremlin itself:

When not only low-level executors but the suspected organizers and the suspected gunman are on trial, then we can have a serious prosecution that could lead to the finding of the mastermind.

Pavlyuchenkov used subordinates in his office to trail Politkovskaya, record her habits, and set her up for the killing. He then hired a trio of Chechen brothers as trigger men, obviously hoping to throw the spotlight of blame away from the Kremlin and towards Chechnya. Politkovskaya’s fearless reporting on the Kremlin’s human rights atrocities in Chechnya had infuriated not only Putin but also Kadyrov, Putin’s puppet in the region, and Kadryov had issued numerous threats against her, making him the perfect patsy.

When the identity of the trio was blown, Pavlyuchenkov actually testified against them at their 2009 trial, but his evidence was so unconvincing that there was an acquittal, followed by an order from the Supreme Court to reinvestigate and retry the alleged killers.

Pavlyuchenkov then accused a former officer with Moscow police's anti-mafia department, Sergei Khadzhikurbanov, of seeking to extort $350,000 from him, and Khadzhikurbanov was sentenced to eight years in prison. Nobody asked how Pavlyuchenkov, paid a few hundred dollars a month, came by such a fantastic sum. Khadzhikurbanov has now been implicated in the murder plot as well, and Novaya Gazeta believes that the money was simply payment for the hit.

Vladimir Markin, a spokesman for the Russia's Investigative Committee, warned ominously:

Pavlyuchenkov, in return for a cash payment, received an order to organize Politkovskaya’s murder. He established an organized criminal group that included the three Makhmudov brothers and other individuals. Investigators have information about the alleged mastermind of this crime. However, we believe it would be premature to disclose it at this point.