Russian Journalist Critical of Government Murdered

Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya was gunned down Saturday. She was an investigative reporter working on a story about abductions and torture in the volatile region of Chechnya. She was also a critic of the Russian government.

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A funeral is being held today in Moscow for a crusading Russian journalist who was shot over the weekend. This is the latest in a string of targeted killings, and the victims have something in common: they were all critics of the Kremlin.

NPR's Gregory Feifer reports.

GREGORY FEIFER: Anna Politkovskaya was one of Russia's most respected journalists who made her name with hard hitting investigation of human rights abuses in Chechnya. She was working on a story about torture and abduction in the war-ravaged region when she was shot four times in her Moscow apartment building's elevator. Politkovskaya was a key figure among Kremlin opponents and many here are still reeling from the news.

Political analyst Andre Pienkowski(ph) said she was one of the few to openly criticize President Vladimir Putin.

Mr. ANDRE PIENKOWSKI (Political Analyst): She was a woman of enormous moral and intellectual courage. There is a lot of men in Russia with exemplary physical courage, but they don't dare to say what against Putin group, leading our country more and more on the way of totalitarian state.

FEIFER: The Kremlin has made no official statement about Politkovskaya's death. But Putin said in a telephone conversation with President Bush that the murder was tragic and promised all necessary efforts toward an objective investigation. But many believe investigators won't find who ordered the killings. A string of other apparent contract murders of high-profile Putin critics remain unsolved.

Politkovskaya knew the dangers of her job. Speaking to the BBC two years ago, she explained why she continued reporting.

Ms. ANNA POLITKOVSKAYA (Investigative Journalist, Russia): Risk is a usual part of my job, the job of Russian journalist. And I cannot stop because it is my duty.

FEIFER: Politkovskaya wrote for Novaya Gazeta, one of the few remaining small circulation newspapers that openly criticized the Kremlin. Grim faced editor, Dmitry Muratov told Russian television that reporters would carry out their own investigation.

Mr. DMITRY MURATOV (Editor, Novaya Gazeta) (Through translator): Everyone knew her for her complete honesty. No one, not our newspaper, not investigators, not anyone else has absolutely any reason to suspect that she was killed for anything but her professional work.

FEIFER: Hundreds of mourners are expected at Politkovskaya's funeral today.

Gregory Feifer, NPR News, Moscow.

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