Russia's Putin Politkovskaya probe on right track

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WIESBADEN, Germany, Oct 15 (Reuters) Russian President Vladimir Putin said today that the investigation into the murder of Anna Politkovskaya, a dissident reporter shot dead more than a year ago, was ''on the right track''.

Politkovskaya, who blamed Putin for eroding human rights, was killed on October. 7 last year in her block of flats, sparking a storm of international condemnation and heightening concerns over the safety of reporters in Russia.

Putin has come under pressure from prominent journalists, rights groups and some Western leaders to ensure that Politkovskaya's killers are brought to justice.

Prosecutor-General Yuri Chaika said in August that the murder was ordered from abroad by enemies of Russia to discredit Putin and undermine political stability in Russia. A total of 11 people have so far been charged in the case.

''The Prosecutor-General has said that the case is in its final stages and I think that it is. The question is about who ordered this murder,'' Putin said at a news briefing with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

''On the whole, they (prosecutors) are on the right track,'' he said, adding that many of those already charged had confessed to being involved in the murder.

Politkovskaya, a 48-year-old mother of two, risked her life to expose abuses by Russian security forces in Chechnya and the North Caucasus.

Her murder, on Putin's 54th birthday, has received strong international attention, like the 2004 murder of Paul Klebnikov, a US citizen and editor of the Russian edition of Forbes magazine, who was shot dead in central Moscow.

Politkovskaya's supporters complained the case was being politicised after prosecutors said the murder was planned from abroad.

Prosecutors have said criminal elements inside the security forces played a role in giving out details about Politkovskaya's movements and in tracking her in the days before her murder.

''Those who carried it out, the active participants, they are obvious and they are confessing,'' Putin said.

Politkovskaya's supporters and rights activists staged events in Moscow and cities around the world on the anniversary of her death earlier this month to call for Russia to bring her killers to justice.

US President George W Bush, European Union leaders and prominent journalists have raised the murder with Putin, pushing Moscow to solve the case.

REUTERS SKB RK1930

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