There were cries of “murderer” as Vladimir Putin emerged from his limousine in Dresden, at the start of a two-day trip to Germany. “You are a murderer. You are not welcome here,” a heckler continued. The issue of journalist Anna Politkovskaya’s killing was discussed by the Russian leader and his host, Chancellor Angela Merkel. And, for the first time, the visiting president spoke about it in public. “Whoever has carried out this crime and whatever motives guided these people, we must be clear that it was a dreadful and unacceptable crime that must not go unpunished,” he said.
But he played down the importance of the slain reporter’s work. He said she had minimal influence on political life in his country, telling reporters that her death causes much greater damage to Russia, Russian authorities and the authorities of the Chechen republic than her articles.
Putin has assured US President Bush that every step will be taken to investigate the case, according to the Kremlin. Merkel said she had been given the same guarantee. She added that this is a necessary signal that the “freedom of those who report and write is a very important attribute of countries in which democracy develops.” Russia’s energy supplies to Europe were also discussed by the Chancellor and Russian President, who once worked in Dresden as a KGB agent.