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Two New Victims of Political Murders in Russia

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 gun with silencer, the reporter tried to catch the
hitman but was also shot dead.

Markelov had represented victims in many outspoken political suits including
many 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 the Neo-Nazis, Novaya Gazeta reports.

This crime was added to the long bloody record of political murders in Putin’s
Russia. Journalists who dared to investigate political crimes often become their next
victims but it’s the first time when 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 tried 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’s 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 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 who 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). Nobody was punished for the
crime, however.

On November 13, 2008, the chief editor of Khimkinskaya Pravda newspaper
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.

2009-01-20