The killer of human rights activist Natalia Estemirova a year ago has been identified and an international manhunt is under way to track him down, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said on Thursday.
Estemirova was kidnapped on July 15 last year in her native Chechnya, where she was a vocal critic of Kremlin-backed regional leader Ramzan Kadyrov, and her body dumped in neighbouring Ingushetia.
"The hitman of the murder has been identified ... but not the one who ordered this grave crime," Medvedev told a joint news conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in the Urals city of Yekaterinburg.
He said the man who pulled the trigger was on an international wanted list and the investigation was "in full swing".
Merkel, a critic of the Kremlin's treatment of opposition activists, said: "In matters of human rights there are clearly differences of opinion between our two countries."
"There's an almost inseparable link between modernising the economy and making civil society more democratic," she said after Medvedev urged her country to invest more in Russia.
Estemirova's murder was condemned by Western leaders and rights activists say the slowness of the investigation is symptomatic of Russia's corruption and lawlessness.
Amnesty International said the slow tempo of the investigation "raises concerns that there is no political will," according to a statement issued on Thursday by its director for international programmes in Europe and Central Asia, Nicola Duckworth.
One of the most populous regions in the mainly Muslim north Caucasus, Chechnya declared independency after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 but was attacked by Russian forces in two wars since the mid-1990s.
The killing of Estemirova, 50, is one of a series of unsolved murders of rights workers and journalists in Russia.
On July 9, the head of Memorial human rights group, Oleg Orlov, said they planned to close Memorial branch in Chechenya over Kadyrov's "a direct and real threat" because they might be interpreted by the republic's law enforcement as a call to action against human rights activists.
Memorial activists have repeatedly accused the authorities of serious abuses including house burning, extra-judicial killings, torture and illegal punishment.
The killing in 2006 of Estemirova's friend and occasional colleague, opposition journalist Anna Politkovskaya, has still not been solved.
The human rights organisation Memorial, where Estemirova worked, planned a rally later on Thursday in Moscow to urge the authorities to solve her murder.
ReutersGüncelleme Tarihi: 15 Temmuz 2010, 17:10