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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Killer Said Hiding in Belgium

The man suspected of killing investigative journalist Anna Politkovskaya is hiding in Western Europe, Investigative Committee chief Alexander Bastrykin said Tuesday.

Prosecutors had said Politkovskaya's suspected killer, Rustam Makhmudov, 34, is hiding abroad. But Bastrykin's statement Tuesday to a St. Petersburg conference on murder investigations clarified his possible whereabouts.

"According to our information, the killer is hiding in Western Europe," Bastrykin said, Interfax reported. "We even know in which country he is located."

Bastrykin did not name the country or explain how investigators came about the information.

An Investigative Committee spokesman reached by telephone Monday declined to comment and referred all inquiries to Bastrykin's comments as reported by Interfax.

Ekho Moskvy reported Tuesday that Belgium's Interior Ministry had confirmed receipt of a request from Russia to extradite Makhmudov. Belgian officials could not be reached for comment.

A law enforcement source told Interfax that prosecutors had sent official requests for assistance in catching the suspect to "several West European countries, including Belgium, Germany, Switzerland and France."

Politkovskaya, who wrote about human rights abuses in Chechnya for Novaya Gazeta, was shot dead in her Moscow apartment building on Oct. 7, 2006. Prosecutors last month formally pressed charges against three suspects — Dzhabrail Makhmudov, Ibragim Makhmudov and Sergei Khadzhikurbanov — in connection with her murder.

Novaya Gazeta deputy editor Dmitry Muratov on Tuesday decried Bastrykin's announcement and the subsequent leaks regarding the possibility that Makhmudov is hiding in Belgium.

"It is primitive. Makhmudov probably has access to the Internet, and those handlers that are moving him around know how to use the Internet," Muratov said, Interfax reported. "So having learned of this news, they will certainly tell him, 'It's time to change your location.'"