Russia identifies activist`s killer: Medvedev

The corpse of rights activist Natalya Estemirova was found on July 15, 2009.

Last Updated: Jul 16, 2010, 09:24 AM IST

Yekaterinburg: Russia has identified the killer of rights activist Natalya Estemirova, President Dmitry Medvedev said on Thursday, exactly one year after her murder in the Caucasus.

Responding to criticism that Russia has been slow to find the truth behind the crime, Medvedev said the assassin of the prize-winning campaigner for rights group Memorial was now the target of an international hunt.

"The perpetrator of this murder -- the killer -- has been uncovered and definitively identified. He is on an international wanted list," said Medvedev at a summit with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

"Now an investigation is under way not only to establish the killer, who is the target of a search, but also the one who ordered this terrible crime," he said in the Russian city of Yekaterinburg.

He did not give further details on the identities of the individuals.

Memorial was left deeply unimpressed by Medvedev`s unexpected announcement.

The acclaimed group said last week it has information that the only suspect in the probe is Alkhazur Bashayev, a militant killed by security forces in Chechnya last November.

"I do not understand what is being talking about," Memorial`s chief Oleg Orlov told the Interfax news agency.

"If we are talking about Alkhazur Bashayev how can he be the target of a search? Bashayev has been killed."

Merkel, meanwhile, called on Russia to "find the truth" and solve Estemirova`s killing.

Estemirova, 50, was abducted outside her home in the Chechen capital of Grozny before her corpse was found hours later riddled with bullet holes in neighbouring Ingushetia on July 15, 2009.

Her murder was the latest in a series of killings of rights defenders and critical reporters in Russia, most notably the 2006 shooting of investigative journalist Anna Politkovskaya.

PTI