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Blocher highlights justice issues in Moscow

Russians have being paying tribute to Anna Politkovskaya

(Keystone)

The Swiss justice minister has wrapped up a two-day visit to Russia aimed at boosting cooperation in the fight against terrorism, drugs and illegal migration.

Christoph Blocher used the occasion to call for an immediate investigation into the murder of Russian reporter Anna Politkovskaya last week.

Blocher's statement came as Politkovskaya was buried in the Russian capital on Tuesday. Hundreds of mourners attended the funeral.

Politkovskaya, a critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin, was found shot dead at her apartment building at the weekend. Her death caused an outcry in the international community.

In a statement released on Tuesday by the Swiss justice ministry, Blocher said that it was important that a "quick solution" to the Politkovskaya murder case was found.

"It's not only about solving a case, but also about investigating an attack against the freedom of expression," he said.

Putin has already pledged to carry out a full and objective investigation into the journalist's death.

Cooperation

The Swiss justice minister was in Moscow was to discuss police and justice cooperation with high-ranking officials and his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Ustinov.

Talks mainly focused on fighting economic crime, fraud and terrorism. The two countries also agreed to step up cooperation over human trafficking and illegal migration.

Russia highlighted the good bilateral relations between the two countries, according to the statement, while Blocher praised the "intensive" talks.

He said events such as the 2002 Überlingen air crash - in which two jets collided over Swiss-controlled airspace in southern Germany killing 71 people, mostly Russian children - and the arrest of Russian ex-nuclear energy minister Yevgeny Adamov, who has since been extradited to Moscow, no longer affected bilateral relations.

The same applied to Switzerland's refusal to grant judicial assistance to the Russian authorities in two legal actions connected to the Yukos affair.

The minister told a media conference in Moscow that he had explained the Swiss stance on judicial assistance to the Russian authorities and that they had accepted it.

He also underlined the importance of Switzerland being a "strong and trustworthy" international financial centre and warned that banking secrecy had its limits.

Blocher is now set to move on to Slovakia, where on Thursday he is expected to sign an accord aimed at reducing illegal migration.

swissinfo with agencies

In brief

Economic ties are growing between both countries. Since 2000 there has been a marked increase in Swiss exports to Russia. In 2005 alone, exports rose by 28 per cent to SFr1.55 billion ($1.22 billion), especially pharmaceuticals, machines and watches.

Imports from Russia, which are estimated at SFr964 million, are said to be more difficult to assess, as experts say this figure does not include Russian oil sales.

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