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Russia top prosecutor probing murder of journalist who championed human rights

[JURIST] Russian Prosecutor General Yury Chaika [official website, in Russian] Sunday took over [RIA Novosti report] the investigation of Saturday's murder of Anna Politkovskaya [BBC report], an award-winning Russian journalist likely killed for her stories about human rights abuses by Russian troops in Chechnya [BBC country profile]. Politkovskaya [BBC obituary], who had covered the crisis in Chechnya [BBC Q&A] for Novaya Gazeta [website, in Russian; tribute, in Russian] since 1999, was shot in the head and in the chest after returning to her Moscow apartment building Saturday evening. Novaya Gazeta journalists will conduct an independent investigation. When she was killed Politkovskaya was working on a story to be published Monday about torture in Chechnya.

Russia [JURIST news archive] is an increasingly dangerous place for journalists, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) [website; news alert], which says that 42 journalists have been killed in Russia since 1992. The US State Department [official website] said Saturday that the US is "shocked and profoundly saddened" [press release] by the murder of Politkovskaya and called the killing of journalists in Russia "an affront to free and independent media and to democratic values." AP has more. Reuters has additional coverage.

5:45 PM ET - In a White House statement [text] Sunday, President Bush called Politkovskaya a "fearless investigative journalist":

Born in the United States to Soviet diplomats, Anna Politkovskaya cared deeply about her country. Through her efforts to shine a light on human rights abuses and corruption, especially in Chechnya, she challenged her fellow Russians - and, indeed, all of us - to summon the courage and will, as individuals and societies, to struggle against evil and rectify injustices.

We urge the Russian Government to conduct a vigorous and thorough investigation to bring to justice those responsible for her murder.

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