10 held over Politkovskaya murder

By Catherine Belton in Moscow

Published: August 27 2007 11:10 | Last updated: August 27 2007 14:27

Russian investigators have detained ten people in connection with the killing of Anna Politkovskaya,the crusading journalist, including former and serving members of Federal Security Service and the Interior Ministry, Russia’s prosecutor general said on Monday.

But Yuri Chaika also told reporters that investigators were convinced that the person who ordered the killing of Ms Politkovskaya, who was gunned down outside her apartment building last October, was outside the country and plotting to destabilise President Vladimir Putin’s government.

”We reached the conclusion that the only people who could be interested in the removal of A. Politkovskaya are those outside the territory of the Russian Federation,” Mr Chaika told a press conference. ”This is most of all to the advantage of those people and structures aiming at destabilizing the situation in the country, in changing the constitutional order, in creating a crisis in Russia and in a return to the previous system when everything was decided by the money of the oligarchs,” he said.

He added that former and serving employees of the Interior Ministry and the FSB – the successor agency of the KGB – had ”unfortunately” taken part in tracking Ms Politkovskaya’s movements before her death.

Some observers have speculated that past and present members of the security forces have been involved in a series of killings whose victims have included critics of the Kremlin. This is the first time such officials have been cited by prosecutors in connection with one of these cases. Her killing, on the same day as Mr Putin’s birthday, sparked outrage among Russian journalists and opposition figures.

Mr Chaika’s comments came just one day after fierce Kremlin critic and oligarch-in-exile Boris Berezovsky, who is wanted by Russian prosecutors in a fraud case, again called for the overthrow of President Vladimir Putin’s regime in an opinion piece in the Sunday Times, his third such public call.

In the immediate aftermath of Politkovskaya’s killing, Mr Putin hinted he believed unnamed fugitives from Russian justice were behind the crime, claiming her death was much more damaging to Russia than any of her reporting.

Mr Chaika said he was not yet in a position to name the organisers or the perpetrators of the killing. But he said prosecutors believed a Chechen leader of a Moscow organised crime group was behind Ms Politkovskaya’s killing.

He told reporters that investigators believed the ”group” behind Ms Politkovskaya’s killing was also involved in the murders of deputy central banker Andrei Kozlov, who was gunned down outside a football stadium last September, and of Paul Khlebnikov, the US editor of Forbes magazine in Russia , shot dead outside his office in July 2004.

Journalists at Novaya Gazeta, the independent newspaper renowned for its investigative journalism where Ms Politkovskaya worked, had warned in a statement on the newspaper’s website that the real organizer of the killing could never be indicted as the case was used to fit ”pre-election political intrigues.”

Ms Politkovskaya had made a name as a fearless chronicler of human rights abuses by the military in Chechnya and as an outspoken critic of Russian president Vladimir Putin’s clampdown on democratic freedoms. Her name had been included on several lists of so-called enemies of the Russian people on ultranationalist web sites.

Moscow considers wheat export ban

By Javier Blas in London

Published: September 2 2007 22:05 | Last updated: September 2 2007 22:05

Russia is considering a ban on cereals exports in a move that exacerbates fears that wheat prices, already at an all-time high, could surge further on reduced supplies, European cereal traders said.

Russia, the world’s fifth largest wheat exporter, is concerned about rising local bread prices and inflation ahead of legislative elections in December.

Cereals traders said Moscow was contemplating either a partial ban on wheat exports or to introduce a prohibitive export tariff to rein in foreign sales. A decision could be made in the first two weeks of September, the traders added.

Moscow’s concern comes as other food-exporting countries, such as Ukraine and Indonesia, try to rein in foreign sales amid rising prices.

Ukraine, the world’s sixth largest wheat exporter, introduced in June prohibitive cereal export tariffs. Indonesia, the world’s second largest palm oil exporter, last week raised to 10 per cent its export tariff on crude palm oil to cool domestic prices.

European-based cereal traders said the mere discussion of an export tariff would limit Russian foreign sales. Russian merchants would avoid new export commitments on fears that the sales could be taxed and unprofitable, the traders said.

The discussion of an export ban is also fuelling panic buying by some food-importing countries, such as Egypt and India, traders said. Wheat prices surged last week to a record high above the $8-a-bushel level in Chicago.

In Paris, milling wheat surged to a record high of €272 a tonne. The cereal price in Chicago registered an almost 25 per cent increase in August.

Global wheat inventories have fallen to the lowest level in 26 years as robust demand from emerging countries coincides with lower supplies as the Australian, European and Canadian crops were hit by bad weather.

A leaked report from the commission last week suggested it was planning to prevent foreign companies from having uncontrolled access to the EU energy market by limiting the rights to own assets and equity in the bloc's energy companies.

The MEPs' document also calls on the commission "to actively counteract any oligopolistic tendencies, such as the danger of the creation of a gas cartel" amid signals from both Russia and Iran that they are interested in creating an OPEC-style international cartel for gas.

At the moment, the EU is reliant on Russia for around a quarter of its oil and gas.


The EU last year upped its efforts to get Russia to ratify the 1998 charter after gas supply cuts to the bloc in early 2006 made it clear how dependent the EU is on its large neighbour for energy supplies.

The energy pact would open competition and foreign access to Russian oil and gas fields.