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Russia20 January 2009

Horrifying double murder of lawyer and journalist in central Moscow underlines climate of impunity

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Reporters Without Borders today reacted with horror to the double murder in central Moscow of lawyer Stanislav Markelov, specialising in murders committed in Chechnya, and journalist on the bi-weekly Novaya Gazeta who was with him, Anastasia Baburova, shot dead as they left a press conference given by the lawyer.

Markelov had at the 19 January press conference condemned the early release of Yuri Bodanov, a Russian former colonel who was sentenced in 2003 to ten years in prison for the murder of an 18-year-old Chechen, Elza Kungayeva, whose family Markelov was representing.

As they left the press conference at 2pm, a masked man wearing a chapka (Russian fur hat) shot Markelov. The young journalist was shot in the head as she tried to prevent the killer from escaping and died a few hours later from her injuries without regaining consciousness.

Stanislas Markelov had recently received death threats. The prosecutor general Yuri Chayka said he was taking control of the investigation.

(JPEG) “We offer our condolences to the families of Anastasia Baburova and Stanislav Markelov” the worldwide press freedom organisation said. “Their deaths are a tragedy, resulting from the persistent hold of violence on Russian society but also the impunity that reigns in cases of murders of journalists and human rights activists.”

“We salute the courage of Markelov, who had defended many journalists including Anna Politkovskaya, who was murdered in October 2006, and Mikhaïl Beketov, brutally assaulted last November. Russia has lost a tenacious lawyer who did his utmost to defend the interests of families of victims of atrocities in Russian Caucasia”.

“Our thoughts are with the family and colleagues of Anastasia Baburova, who made the choice to become a journalist and deal with sensitive issues, particularly ultra-nationalism. She was a brave young woman, which is clearly demonstrated by the fact that she was fatally injured while trying to stop the gunman” the organisation added.

“The authorities must quickly hunt down, identify and try those responsible for this double murder. Murders of journalists, lawyers and human rights defenders in Russia can only be stopped by breaking the cycle of impunity.” it concluded.

The trial of the four suspects in the murder of Novaya Gazeta journalist, Anna Politkovskaya, who tirelessly exposed crimes committed in Chechnya, resumed the same day in Mosocw. Neither those who ordered her killed nor the suspected gunman are among those in the dock.

Ceremonies in memory of Stanislav Markelov and Anastassia Baburova were held in Moscow and Chechnya.

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