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In shift, Kremlin reopens cases of Russian reporters' unsolved murders

The announcement came during the Kremlin's meeting today with the Committee to Protect Journalists. Rights groups have been pressing to address major unsolved murders, such as the slaying of Anna Politkovskaya.

By Correspondent / September 30, 2010

A woman places flowers at a portrait of slain journalist Anna Politkovskaya during a rally in downtown Moscow, Oct. 7, 2009. Top Kremlin officials are meeting today with the Committee to Protect Journalists and pledged to aggressively pursue investigations into 19 unsolved, work-related murders of Russian journalists.

Pavel Golovkin/AP/File



The Kremlin said this week it is reopening several unsolved murders of journalists, showing a change in tone from years of official inactivity and stymied justice. But some human rights activists are skeptical that a genuine shift is under way, evidenced in part by the lack of progress in determining who killed internationally acclaimed reporter Anna Politkovskaya in 2006.

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Top Moscow authorities met Thursday with a visiting delegation from the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists and pledged to aggressively pursue investigations into 19 unsolved, work-related murders of Russian journalists since Vladimir Putin came to power a decade ago, including at least five cases that had previously been closed or suspended.

"This is the third time we've come to Moscow to urge authorities to pursue journalist killings effectively, and this is the first time we've been granted an extensive audience with the authorities who are directly responsible for investigating these cases," says Nina Ognianova, the group's Europe coordinator.

Kremlin targets killers

She was part of the delegation that met with Alexander Bastrykin, head of a new and powerful Kremlin-run Investigative Committee that was set up three years ago to bypass regular prosecutors but was recently beefed-up by President Dmitry Medvedev.

"It seems like this new tone is coming from the very top. There is a perceived seriousness on the part of the Kremlin to deal with these cases, and perhaps that's because the president is concerned with Russia's image abroad," says Ms. Ognianova.

Earlier this week Mr. Bastrykin told journalists that police were closing in on the killer of human rights activist Natalya Estemirova, whose body was found by a roadside in Ingushetia a year ago. She was the last human rights-oriented journalist to operate in Chechnya, which is run with an iron fist by Moscow-installed strongman Ramzan Kadyrov. "We have unmasked the killer. We know his name. We hope to detain him soon," he said.