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    Russia rules out UN expert probe into Chechen activist's murder

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    Russia said on Wednesday that United Nations experts could not carry out their own investigation into the murder of Chechen rights activist Natalya Estemirova, but could give evidence to Russian police.

    MOSCOW, July 22 (RIA Novosti) - Russia said on Wednesday that United Nations experts could not carry out their own investigation into the murder of Chechen rights activist Natalya Estemirova, but could give evidence to Russian police.

    Estemirova, who had been investigating kidnappings and disappearances in Chechnya for the Russian human rights group Memorial, was abducted and murdered on July 15 in the south Russian republic, prompting international outrage.

    The offer from seven leading international experts came after a call by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay for a thorough and independent investigation into the killing.

    The Foreign Ministry said the letter it received had not mentioned a separate investigation by the UN officials, which would be impossible under Russian law and UNHCR procedures, but added that they were welcome to provide Russian investigators with any evidence they had relating to the case.

    The experts said they had taken note of Russia's condemnation of the murder and its pledge to do all it could to catch and punish Estemirova's killers.

    "However, these assurances will be worth little unless the authorities take steps that go beyond what has been done in the past, which has all too often led to a cycle of impunity," they said in a statement.

    "We offer our assistance to the Russian authorities in light of the failure to effectively and impartially investigate the killings and attacks on a number of human rights defenders in recent years...and to bring the perpetrators to justice."

    Russian President Dmitry Medvedev dismissed as "primitive" accusations that Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov was behind the murder.

    In a statement published on Memorial's website last Wednesday, its head Oleg Orlov said: "I know, I am certain who is to blame for the murder of Natasha Estemirova. We all know this person. His name is Ramzan Kadyrov, the president of the Chechen Republic."

    Kadyrov's lawyer began legal action against Orlov on Monday for libel and defamation.

    Other rights activists said they held both Putin and Kadyrov responsible for her killing.

    "I blame both of them for the killing - for involvement in the killing," said Lyudmila Alexeyeva, head of the Moscow Helsinki Group.

     

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