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Police Vow to Punish Politkovskaya's Killers

A senior police investigator said Thursday that suspects acquitted in the murder of journalist Anna Politkovskaya last year were guilty and would be brought to justice.

“I give a 100 percent guarantee that those people were connected to the murder and that their guilt has been proven," Iskander Galimov, head of the Interior Ministry's criminal investigation department, told reporters.

"They will end up being charged," he said, Interfax reported.

Galimov was referring to Chechen brothers Ibragim and Dzhabrail Makhmudov and former Interior Ministry official Sergei Khadzhikurbanov, who were acquitted by a jury of involvement in Politkovskaya's 2006 murder. The trio were charged with being accessories in the murder, while a third Makhmudov brother, Rustam, is believed to have pulled the trigger. The whereabouts of Rustam Makhmudov are unknown.

Investigators have not identified the mastermind in the killing of Politkovskaya, an investigative reporter for Novaya Gazeta and Kremlin critic who was shot dead in the elevator of her Moscow apartment building on Oct. 7, 2006.

But they say the attack was carried out by a criminal group.

Galimov, meanwhile, said police solved more than 9,000 crimes committed by criminal groups in 2009. He said 250 criminal groups uniting more than 12,000 gangsters operate in Russia, including 12 in Moscow and 10 in the surrounding Moscow region. Gangs typically have 70 to 500 members each, he added.

Police have identified 149 gang leaders, or so-called thieves-in-law, including 42 in Moscow alone, he said. Of the total, 92 are serving time in prison, he said.

Galimov said many gang leaders come to Russia from Georgia, which recently adopted a law that envisages prison sentences of up to 25 years for gang leaders who merely admit their positions in the presence of police officials.

Galimov said it would be much easier to fight crime in Russia if the State Duma passed a similar law.

The ethics for thieves-in-law require that a gang leader acknowledge his position in any circumstances.

 Late last year, the Duma amended the Criminal

Code to make leadership in a criminal gang punishable by up to 20 years in prison instead of the previous 15 years.

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