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Slain Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya symbol of threatened press

Anna Politkovskaya was murdered three years ago, but her killers have not been brought to justice. Russian journalists say that's a sign of how dangerous their jobs have become.

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Many of Politkovskaya's friends and colleagues say they now despair of ever seeing justice done, after a long and much-criticized official investigation that ended with the surprise acquittal of three suspects by a Moscow jury last February.

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In June, Russia's Supreme Court quashed the acquittals, and ordered a retrial of the same defendants. But the two Chechen brothers and a former police officer facing retrial are suspected merely of being accomplices in the killing. The actual trigger man and the "mastermind" thought to have ordered Politkovskaya's death have never been named, much less called to account.

"Our family is starting to lose hope that the whole chain of those involved in this crime will be found and brought to court, because, as time goes by, the chances of finding the people involved in this murder are fading," Politkovskaya's daughter Vera told journalists Tuesday.

Politkovskaya's colleagues at the opposition weekly Novaya Gazeta, where her unoccupied desk still sits as a newsroom monument, say they have been conducting their own parallel inquiries into the murder and still have hopes that the case can be broken.

"The supplementary investigation now under way is the last chance for the [police] to prove that they can find those who are guilty of Politkovskaya's murder," says Nadezhda Prusenkova, a spokesperson for Novaya Gazeta.

"Political will is the only thing that's needed now to locate and name the person who ordered her killing, no matter what post this person holds," she says. "Time is passing, and it works against us. We're going to keep fighting and we're not going to leave this where it is."

Novaya Gazeta's editor, Sergei Sokolov, created a stir this week by naming Rustam Makhmoudov, brother of two of the defendants, as the gunman who shot Politkovskaya in her apartment lobby in 2006. He said Mr. Makhmoudov is on the run "somewhere in the European Union," and could be arrested at any time.

But others say the authorities have contributed to an atmosphere that has stifled Russia's journalistic community and are unlikely to do anything to make reporters feel safer.

"Since 1993, not a single murder of a journalist killed in the line of work has been solved," says Oleg Panfilov, director of the independent Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations, a watchdog group. "I don't think the authorities will ever punish themselves. The state of journalism in Russia is catastrophic, and there is no hope that it will change."

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