The United States and the European Union have marked the 15th anniversary of the murder of prominent investigative reporter Anna Politkovskaya in central Moscow by renewing their calls for all those responsible to be brought to justice, amid an intensifying crackdown on independent media and the opposition.
Politkovskaya -- a critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin whose reporting exposed high-level corruption in Russia and rights abuses in the North Caucasus republic of Chechnya -- was shot dead in her apartment building on Putin's birthday, October 7, 2006.
The case remains unresolved, and the journalist’s former employer, independent newspaper Novaya gazeta, warned that the statute of limitations on the crime expires 15 years after the crime. And if a court does not extend it, the masterminds of the murder will go unpunished.
The paper’s editor in chief, Dmitry Muratov, told RFE/RL that he has sent an official request to the Investigative Committee asking whether the case had been dismissed. He said they replied that the investigation is “ongoing.”
Asked by reporters if the Kremlin would be in favor of extending the statute of limitations for Politkovskaya's killing, spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that the "inevitability of punishment" for such crimes was paramount.
The European Court of Human Rights in 2018 found that the Russian state had failed in its obligation to adequately investigate the killing.
While the authorities convicted a group of individuals who carried out the contract killing, they "failed to take adequate investigatory steps to find the person or persons who had commissioned the murder," the Strasbourg-based court found.
In a statement, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the Novaya gazeta journalist was killed “for her brave work bringing to light human rights abuses in the conflict in Chechnya and giving voice to its victims.”
Blinken urged that all of those involved in her murder be “identified and held accountable” and said that “the continued impunity for those who ordered Politkovskaya’s murder undermines freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and broader human rights in Russia.”
The EU spokesman on foreign affairs, Peter Stano, hailed Politkovskaya for continuing her journalistic work “despite repeated intimidations, including a mock execution and poisoning attempt.”
Russia should ensure that all those behind the assassination are brought to justice "through an open and transparent judicial process" and uphold its national and international obligations to "protect human rights and democratic values," Stano said in a statement.
The spokesman noted that independent media and civil society in Russia “face unprecedented pressure from the Russian government, notably through the designation of ever more media outlets, civil society organizations, but also individual journalists and activists as 'foreign agents' or 'undesirable.'"
Blinken praised “the courage and persistence of independent Russian journalists -- many unfairly designated as “foreign agents” -- working today in the face of repression.”
The legislations on “'undesirable” individuals or groups, as well as the so-called “foreign agents” law, have been used by the Russian authorities to target independent media outlets, civil society groups, rights activists, and others.