By VLADIMIR ISACHENKOV, Associated Press

MOSCOW (AP) — Colleagues of investigative reporter Anna Politkovskaya on Thursday sharply criticized the Russian authorities for failing to track down the mastermind of her killing 15 years ago, saying the official inquiry has effectively fizzled.

Politkovskaya, who won international acclaim for her reporting on the human rights abuses in the Russian republic of Chechnya was shot dead in the elevator of her Moscow apartment building on Oct. 7, 2006.

In 2014, a court in Moscow convicted the gunman and three other Chechens involved in the killing along with a former Moscow police officer who was their accomplice. Another former police officer involved in the killing made a deal with authorities that allowed him to qualify for a reduced sentence in exchange for cooperation with investigators.

Politkovskaya’s newspaper, Novaya Gazeta, castigated the authorities for failing to determine who ordered the killing, noting that under the Russian statute of limitations, the mastermind wouldn’t face punishment 15 years after the crime unless a court rules otherwise.

Asked about the investigators’ failure to find who ordered Politkovskaya’s killing, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said such efforts often take a long time and emphasized that the mastermind must be tracked down and punished.

“It’s a primary task to ensure the imminence of punishment for such crimes,” Peskov said in a conference call with reporters when asked if the Kremlin would support waiving the statute of limitations to punish the mastermind.

Novaya Gazeta’s editor, Dmitry Muratov, said that the search for the mastermind has long fizzled even though the authorities pretend it’s ongoing.

“Regrettably, there is no probe going on now,” he said in an interview with The Associated Press. “We don’t even know when an investigator last touched that criminal case.”

Muratov described Politkovskaya as an unrivaled reporter with strong charisma and a lot of empathy.

“She would bend her head as she listened to people and was so attentive that it became clear that there is nothing more important in the world than her interlocutor,” Muratov recalled. “And she also laughed in such a contagious way as few other people could! So she lived her life between that pain and that rare burst of laughter.”

Anna Frants contributed to this report.

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