MOSCOW -- The motive behind the 2006 murder of Anna Politkovskaya, a veteran reporter who was an unstinting critic of the Kremlin and its policies in Chechnya, was to instill fear in the country's journalists, a top criminal investigator said in an interview published Friday. It was a bleak assessment of a case that remains unsolved six years after Ms. Politkovskaya was shot at point-blank range as she arrived home from grocery shopping.
"I believe the person who ordered this pursued not only retaliation against Anna Politkovskaya for critical publications," Petros V. Garibyan, who headed the investigation, told the daily newspaper Kommersant. Referring to the killer, Mr. Garibyan said, "First and foremost, he sought a demonstrative and resonant act aimed at intimidating all of you -- journalists -- as well as society and the authorities."
The official investigation into the murder was closed last month without identifying the person who ordered the killing, although five people suspected of involvement, including the person believed to be the gunman, are expected to go to trial. Mr. Garibyan said investigators never questioned a Chechen strongman, Ramzan A. Kadyrov, whom Ms. Politkovskaya had targeted in relentless investigative reporting, because there was no evidence implicating him.
"In the summer and fall of 2006, he was preparing to assume the post as Chechnya's president, and a resonant murder targeted at a journalist criticizing him brought him more harm than good," Mr. Garibyan said. He said the killer had been stalking Ms. Politkovskaya for five days but waited to kill her until Oct. 7, the birthday of President Vladimir V. Putin. Having examined Ms. Politkovskaya's life "under the microscope," investigators determined that the killer was motivated by her provocative reporting, Mr. Garibyan said. All other potential reasons, like business conflicts or a domestic dispute, were ruled out.
Sergei M. Sokolov, deputy editor of Novaya Gazeta, the newspaper at which Ms. Politkovskaya worked, told the radio station Ekho Moskvy on Friday that he continued to hope that "political will" would enable investigators to name the crime's perpetrator.
"I suspect that the investigation now has the opportunity to track down this person," he said. "The circle of suspects has sufficiently narrowed."
Lyudmila M. Alexeyeva, head of the Moscow Helsinki Group, a rights organization, was not optimistic about the prospect of a breakthrough.
Mr. Garibyan's interview, she told Ekho Moskvy, "shows that, as in all such cases, the investigation finds itself facing a solid wall that conceals the person who ordered this."
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.