A well-known attorney, Stanislav Markelov, and a young journalist, Anastasia Baburova, were assassinated on Monday not far from Kremlin. The murderer shot the lawyer in the head with a silencer, the reporter tried to catch the hitman but was also shot dead.
Markelov had represented victims in many public political suits including those about war crimes in Chechnya. He was, for instance, involved in the case of Yury Budanov, a former colonel of Russian Army who had raped and killed a Chechen girl in 2000. By the way, Budanov was early released from the prison just a few days ago. He appears to have very influential supporters both in the army and in the government (like the governor of Ulyanovsk region Vladimir Shamanov).
Anastasia Baburova started to work in Novaya Gazeta (where Anna Politkovskaya had worked) only recently. She wrote about youth political groups including Neo-Nazi groups, Novaya Gazeta reports.
This crime was added to a long bloody record of political murders in Putin's Russia. Journalists who dared to investigate political crimes often became their next victims but it's the first time that a lawyer is killed for political purposes.
Anna Politkovskaya, a prominent journalist for Novaya Gazeta, was shot dead at her doorstep in Moscow on October 7, 2006, Putin's birthday. She was well-known for investigating cases of war crimes, police brutality and corruption in Chechnya and in other regions of Russia. Stanislav Markelov worked closely with her and represented the victims in all her latest cases.
Three people are on trial for allegedly being involved in the murder of Politkovskaya, one of them a former UBOP (anti-organized crime unit also used against opposition) officer, another one an FSB agent. Neither the hitman, nor the mastermind were arrested but many people believe that Chechen president Ramzan Kadyrov (who was an often target of Politkovskaya's investigations) was involved. Vladimir Putin commented cynically on this murder that "her death caused more harm than her life."
On November 23, 2006, another Kremlin foe, Alexander Litvinenko, died in London after being poisoned by radioactive Pollonium-212. He was a former FSB officer who accused the Russian secret services for organizing several terrorist attacks in 1999 that helped bring Vladimir Putin to power. The only suspect, Andrei Lugovoy, is now an MP for Kremlin-sponsored LDPR party and the Vice Speaker of the Duma. Russian government refused to extradite him to the United Kingdom.
On November 22, 2007, an opposition activist Yury Chervochkin was severely beaten by several men in the sub-Moscow city of Serpukhov. He never came out of a coma and died on December 10. Several minutes before the assault he called his friends and told them that he was followed by several UBOP officers whom he knew. The killers were never brought to justice.
On August 31, 2008, the owner of an opposition Web site Ingushetiya.ru, Magomed Yevloev, was arrested by the police in Magas, Ingushetia, and killed in a police car. Official version: an accidental shot in the head. The president of Ingushetia Murad Zyazikov had to resign two months later after a wave of popular protest (he is now an advisor to Dmitry Medvedev). However, nobody has punished for the crime.
On November 13, 2008, the chief editor of the newspaper Khimkinskaya Pravda, Mikhail Beketov, was attacked by unknown people at his doorstep in the city of Khimki near Moscow. He was beaten so severely that he barely survived, had his leg and two fingers amputated and still didn't fully regain consciousness. The attackers haven't been found. His paper revealed cases of corruption and illegal activities of the local authorities of Khimki. His attorney was Stanislav Markelov.
PS: When I already finished this post, it became known that an opposition activist and a participant of Dissenters' Marches Anton Stradymov was found dead in Moscow on Monday night. According to the reports, he was beaten to death.
Follow Oleg Kozlovsky on Twitter: www.twitter.com/kozlovsky_en