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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Investigator Out in Politkovskaya Case

The lead investigator into the murder of journalist Anna Politkovskaya has been replaced, her former colleagues said Tuesday, in what they said showed political interference in the case.

Novaya Gazeta, the newspaper where Politkovskaya worked, said the chief investigator on the case, Pyotr Gabriyan, had been replaced by a more senior official. Politkovskaya's colleagues and family have praised Gabriyan's work.

Novaya Gazeta editor Dmitry Muratov said he believed the changes were the result of interference by the siloviki -- a Kremlin clan that controls intelligence, law enforcement and the military.

"The siloviki are achieving what they set out to achieve," Muratov said on Ekho Moskvy radio. "They wanted to ruin the case, and now they will remove Gabriyan and finish that process."

Interfax and RIA-Novosti reported Tuesday that the lead investigator had been pulled off the Politkovskaya case altogether.

But Novaya Gazeta said Gabriyan was still on the case for now. It said in a statement that its staff felt "disappointment and bewilderment" that he was no longer in charge.

A spokesman for the Prosecutor General's Office declined to comment on personnel changes on the Politkovskaya case.

The contract-style shooting in October of Politkovskaya, an outspoken critic of President Vladimir Putin, provoked a storm of international condemnation, with critics accusing the Kremlin of failing to protect freedom of speech.

Prosecutor General Yury Chaika said last week that Politkovskaya was killed by an organized crime group that included serving and former law enforcement officers. He said the crime was masterminded by anti-Kremlin forces abroad whose aim was to discredit Russia.

Chaika announced at the time that 10 suspects had been arrested in connection with the killing. The Tvoi Den tabloid later published a list of 11 names. Tvoi Den first reported the replacement of the lead prosecutor Tuesday.

Two suspects, however, have been released for a lack of evidence.

The detention of a third suspect, Federal Security Service Lieutenant Colonel Pavel Ryaguzov, was in doubt, but the Moscow Garrison Court finally sanctioned his arrest Tuesday, Interfax reported.

A lawyer for a native Chechen suspect who remains in custody said his client had been assaulted. Dzhabrail Makhmudov had "his kidneys all beaten up," lawyer Murad Musayev said Monday, Interfax reported.

Reuters, MT