The two suspects in investigative journalist and Kremlin critic Anna Politkovskaya’s killing were released by the prosecutors and a third is no longer linked to the case, Russian news agencies reported Thursday.
The chief prosecutor's announcement Monday of the arrests of 10 suspects was met with skepticism from media watchdogs and editors at Politkovskaya's newspaper. The decline in the pool of suspects since then is likely to reinforce doubts about the prosecutors' case.
Prosecutor General Yuri Chaika said the Oct. 7 shooting was organized by a Chechen criminal group in Moscow that specialized in contract killings, and that among the suspects were five law enforcement officers, accused of tracking Politkovskaya and providing her killers with information.
Their arrests were a rare confirmation of long-standing allegations of collusion between police officers and members of organized crime groups in Moscow.
But two police officers have since been released, news agencies reported Thursday, citing sources close to the investigation. The Prosecutor General's Office refused to comment on the reports.
A Federal Security Service officer who had been named as among the suspects was still being held, but his arrest was "in no way" connected to Politkovskaya's killing, Moscow military court spokesman Alexander Minchanovsky said Thursday. The court had approved the arrest of Lt. Col. Pavel Ryaguzov on Friday.
A fourth suspect, a former police major, could not have been involved in the killing because he had been in prison from 2004 until December 2006, the Kommersant newspaper reported Thursday.
Politkovskaya's persistent reporting of atrocities against civilians in war-scarred Chechnya had angered the Kremlin and the Kremlin-backed Chechen leadership, but won her admiration in her homeland and international acclaim.
A rally in her memory was to be held in the center of Moscow later Thursday, which would have been Politkovskaya's 49th birthday.
Chaika said Monday that the journalist's killing had been ordered by someone living outside the country with the aim of discrediting President Vladimir Putin and destabilizing Russia. His remarks were interpreted as a reference to Boris Berezovsky, a former Kremlin insider who lives in London and is one of Putin's fiercest critics.
But much speculation on who ordered the contract-style killing has focused on Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov, who was prime minister of the southern Russian republic when she was killed and became its president in March. He has denied involvement. Politkovskaya had been a consistent critic of Kadyrov, accusing his security forces of kidnapping and torturing civilians.