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Last Updated: Tuesday, 10 October 2006, 23:55 GMT 00:55 UK
Crowds drawn to reporter's funeral
By Artyom Liss
BBC News, Moscow

Investigative reporter Anna Politkovskaya - a consistent critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin - was shot dead on Saturday. Mourners from all walks of life attended her funeral.

Funeral
Anna Politkovskaya was shot dead in her apartment

At a cemetery on the outskirts of Moscow, hundreds of people stood patiently in pouring rain.

They were queuing to say their last goodbyes to murdered journalist Anna Politkovskaya.

It took hours for everybody to file past the coffin. And, as people paid their respects, the catafalque became almost invisible beneath thousands of carnations.

Among the crowd were Russian opposition politicians and British and American ambassadors - as well as victims of the Beslan school attack and the Moscow theatre siege of 2002.

"She was our hero," said Tatyana Karpova, who lost her son when Chechen rebels took over a Moscow theatre.

"Nobody else could write with such courage and bravery against the wrongdoings and the crimes of Russian authorities."

This view was echoed by most of those who spoke inside the memorial hall - a dark, ugly building too small to fit all mourners at this funeral.

"We are deeply shocked by this murder. Anna embodied the best qualities of a real journalist; there was a lot of respect for her both in Russia and abroad," said the US ambassador to Moscow, William Burns, as he stood by Anna Politkovskaya's coffin.

Conspiracy theories

But top-level Russian officials were nowhere to be seen. Their answer came later when President Putin, speaking in Germany, described Politkovskaya's influence in Russia as "negligible".

Crowds
Hundreds crowded around the coffin in Troyekurovskoye cemetery
He even hinted the murder might have been a plot by Moscow's enemies - who, he said, were prepared to "sacrifice people" to tarnish the Russian state in the eyes of the outside world.

But most people at the ceremony, it seemed, were not prepared to accept those conspiracy theories.

"It was clearly a political murder," said one woman as she clutched carnations and a copy of Novaya Gazeta, the newspaper for which Politkovskaya wrote.

"I think this was meant to show what happens if you speak out against the authorities. Unfortunately, we have very few journalists like her in Russia now."

As the hearse with Politkovskaya's body drove towards her last resting place, the crowd was eerily silent - numb with shock and with disbelief.

Journalism issues

Dozens of theories as to how this murder happened and who might have ordered it will probably emerge.

But to Politkovskaya's colleagues, who stood by and watched the procession file to the burial grounds, the answer already seems clear.

"I think whoever did it was not concerned about just one or two stories - it's more likely that she was killed because of all the work she had been doing for us," said Dmitry Muratov, editor-in-chief of Novaya Gazeta.

The newspaper will publish a special edition this Thursday. It will carry Politkovskaya's last article - a piece about alleged abuses by the Chechen Prime Minister Ramzan Kadyrov.

Anna Politkovskaya
Politkovskaya worked for Novaya Gazeta
For many Russians who attended the ceremony, the question is whether this will be the end of hard-hitting investigative journalism in their country.

Novaya Gazeta's reporters are saying that they are not intimidated. But they've lost three of their colleagues over the last few years. And work, they say, is becoming increasingly difficult.

Politkovskaya will now rest next to her father who died two weeks earlier. She is survived by two children - a son and a daughter.


SEE ALSO
Obituary: Anna Politkovskaya
07 Oct 06 |  Europe

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