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Anna Politkovskaya's family dismisses arrest in journalist's murder

Russia arrested the suspected triggerman in the killing of Anna Politkovskaya five years ago, but her family says justice will come only if the 'masterminds are found and punished.'

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A woman places flowers at a portrait of slain journalist Anna Politkovskaya, during a rally in downtown Moscow, on Oct. 7, 2009.

Pavel Golovkin/AP/File

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Russian authorities have announced the arrest of the man they believe murdered investigative journalist Anna Politkovskaya almost five years ago, a significant development that might lead to a breakthrough in the long-dormant case.

But lawyers, friends, and relatives of Ms. Politkovskaya say they aren't impressed by the detention late Monday of Rustam Makhmudov, in his home Chechen district of Achkoi-Martan, where he had probably been hiding in plain sight for some time.

"We do not consider the detention of the perpetrator of the crime to be a breakthrough because the investigators have long suspected Rustam Makhmudov of involvement in this crime," Anna Stavitskaya, a lawyer for the Politkovskaya family, said in a statement. "I can't thank the investigators for his arrest because it should have been done four years ago... . The crime will only be solved when its masterminds are found and punished."

Two of Mr. Makhmudov's brothers, together with a third suspect, were acquitted of being accomplices in the contract slaying two years ago after a trial that had Politkovskaya's supporters tearing their hair in frustration regarding what they saw as a thoroughly botched prosecution.

Russia's Supreme Court subsequently overturned the court verdict and the Makhmudov brothers are still awaiting retrial.

But Rustam Makhmudov, alleged to be the triggerman, reportedly evaded capture by fleeing abroad. According to the Russian police investigative committee, authorities in Belgium, where he spent time, aided in the special operation to capture him.

Politkovskaya, a reporter with the crusading opposition newsweekly Novaya Gazeta, was a tough critic of Kremlin policies in general and especially the brutal methods used to pacify rebel Chechnya in what became known as the "second Chechen war" after Vladimir Putin came to power in 1999.

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