Columbia International Affairs Online: Policy Briefs

CIAO DATE: 02/2009

North Caucasus Weekly - Volume X, Issue 3

January 2009

North Caucasus Weekly (formerly Chechnya Weekly), The Jamestown Foundation


* Lawyer for Family of Budanov's Victim and Journalist Murdered in Moscow
* Human Rights Groups Press Austria to Investigate Murder of Chechen
* Ruslan Yamadaev's Brother: He was Murdered by Kadyrov's Associate
* Deteriorating Security Situation in Ingushetia Sparks First Ever Visit to Region by Medvedev
By Valery Dzutsev
* Markelov Assassination Tied to Release of Budanov?
By Fatima Tlisova

Lawyer for Family of Budanov's Victim and Journalist Murdered in Moscow

Stanislav Markelov, the human rights lawyer who represented the family of Elza Kungaeva, the 18-year-old Chechen woman murdered by Russian Colonel Yuri Budanov in the Chechen village of Tangi-Chu in March 2000, was also murdered in Moscow on January 19. Markelov, who was the founder and president of the Moscow-based Rule of Law Institute, was shot a short distance from the Kremlin by a masked gunman, who also shot Anastasia Baburova, a night student at Moscow State University's journalism school and a writer for the newspaper Novaya Gazeta, who was walking with Markelov at the time of the shooting. The lawyer had just held a press conference at Moscow's Independent Press Center, during which he condemned the December 24 court decision granting Budanov parole (North Caucasus Weekly, January 9). Budanov was released from prison on January 15, having served eight years and six months of his ten-year sentence for Kungaeva's murder.

Markelov died at the scene of the crime while Baburova, who had attended his press conference, died of her wounds in a hospital several hours later. Baburova, who appears not to have been an intended target, was shot by the gunman as she pursued him after he gunned down Markelov.

As reported on January 20, many human rights activists believe Markelov's murder was directly connected to the Kungaeva case. It should be noted that Markelov had filed an appeal with Russia's Supreme Court challenging Budanov's early release and said he might also file an appeal challenging the decision to grant Budanov parole with the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. Interfax on January 19 quoted Kungaeva's father, Visa Kungaev, as saying he had "no doubt" that Markelov was killed for "firmly and consistently defending" the interests of the Kungaev family and for filing an appeal with the Russian Supreme Court to overturn Budanov's early release. "I am sure this is the work of Budanov's people," Kungaev told Interfax. "It is also a warning to other lawyers as well as rights defenders and journalists to keep away from Budanov's case."

In 2003, Visa Kungaev, his wife and four surviving children fled Russia to Norway, and police there have put the family under protective custody in the wake of Markelov's murder. RIA Novosti quoted Kungaev as saying that his family had been forced to move from Russia to Norway after receiving threats over the Budanov case.

Budanov, for his part, called Markelov's murder a "dirty provocation" in a telephone interview with Komsomolskaya Pravda published on January 20, during which Budanov also conveyed condolences to the families of Markelov and Baburova.

While Budanov's condolences were cynical at best, Kommersant on January 20 quoted one of Markelov's colleagues at the Rule Of Law Institute, Vasily Syzganov, as saying he doubted that Budanov killed the lawyer. "I cannot imagine that a man would spend eight years in places of detention and think only about how to kill the opposing party's lawyer," Syzganov told the newspaper. "Most likely, somebody simply took advantage of Yuri Budanov's release," he added.

In addition, various observers have noted that Markelov undoubtedly had multiple enemies as a result of his work as a human rights lawyer. As the Moscow Times noted on January 20, Markelov's other clients included Khimkinskaya Pravda editor Mikhail Beketov, an anti-corruption campaigner who was gravely beaten in Khimki, just north of Moscow, in unclear circumstances last year; Chechen Yana Neserkhoyeva, a Nord-Ost hostage accused of helping terrorists in 2002; and Zelimkhan Murdalov, a kidnapped Grozny resident assisted by Novaya Gazeta reporter Anna Politkovskaya, who herself was shot dead in central Moscow in 2006. In addition, reported on January 20 that Markelov "often represented the interests of anarchist and pacifist movements, defended victims of police actions ... criticized the authorities, spoke out against Nazi movements, [and] took part in ... mass protests."

Amnesty International noted in a January 19 press release that it had campaigned on Markelov's behalf back in 2004 after he was attacked, beaten and had documents stolen relating to his work on behalf of Zelimkhan Murdalov. According to Amnesty International, Murdalov was abducted and tortured by Sergei Lapin, an OMON special police detachment officer also known as "Kadet" who allegedly sent threatening letters to Politkovskaya after she published articles linking him and his OMON colleagues to Murdalov's torture.

Kommersant on January 20 quoted Novaya Gazeta military correspondent Vyacheslav Izmailov as saying that he wrote an article published last July about Magomedsalikh Masaev, a Chechen living in Moscow who claimed he had been held prisoner by Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov for several months. After the article was published, Masaev received anonymous telephone threats and then disappeared with two of his friends while on a visit to Chechnya in August 2008. At the request of Novaya Gazeta, Markelov managed to convince the Investigations Department for the Zavodsky district of the Chechen capital Grozny that Masaev had been kidnapped and that it should launch a criminal probe into the abduction. According to Izmailov, Chechen authorities subsequently tried to squash the probe, but Markelov made it difficult for them to do so by constantly telephoning Chechnya to find out how the investigation was progressing, demanding that searches be stepped up and getting human rights activists and journalists involved in the case. Izmailov told Kommersant that he believes a possible motive for Markelov's murder lies in the Masaev case. Masaev, it should be noted, remains missing.

In Izmailov's interview with Masaev, which appeared in Novaya Gazeta last July 10, Masaev said armed men had detained him in the Chechen town of Gudermes in 2006 and then drove him and two supporters to a base where they were imprisoned from September 28, 2006 to January 21, 2007. Masaev said they were held in an old bus, beaten and subjected to a mock execution. Kadyrov visited them there once, and while he did not beat or torture them, Masaev said the Chechen leader "extended his foot as if he wanted us to lick it and to ask for mercy."

In a press release last August 5 about Masaev's disappearance, Human Rights Watch quoted Markelov as saying that Masaev's abduction two days earlier was "an attempt to thwart this unprecedented criminal case about a secret prison run by the leadership of Chechnya." Markelov told the New York-based rights watchdog that he feared Chechen authorities were trying to force Masaev to retract his testimony.

Chechen officials, meanwhile, insist that Markelov's murder was the result of him representing the Kungaev family. Kommersant on January 20 quoted Nurdi Nukhazhiev, Chechnya's human rights ombudsman, as saying that supporters of Budanov had "celebrated the release of their idol" by shooting the human rights lawyer.

According to the Moscow Times, the Chechen government reported on its official website on January 20 that Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov had posthumously awarded Markelov a medal for his "merits to the Chechen Republic." The newspaper also reported that over 1,000 people had rallied in Grozny on January 20, calling for Markelov's killers to be brought to justice (see Fatima Tlisova's article in this issue).

Human Rights Groups Press Austria to Investigate Murder of Chechen

Interfax reported on January 15 that leading human rights groups had called on Austrian authorities to investigate the January 13 murder in Vienna of Umar Israilov, a 27-year-old former Chechen rebel who surrendered and briefly served as a bodyguard to Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov before fleeing Chechnya for Europe. Israilov later said he had filed a complaint against Russia in the European Court of Human Rights alleging "systematic use of abductions and torture" by Kadyrov and his security forces to punish suspected insurgents and their families during 2003-2005. Israilov described to the New York Times several of the allegations he had made to the Strasbourg court, including the beating and kicking of detainees by Kadyrov and his fighters, the rape of a detainee by one of Kadyrov's subordinates and Kadyrov's use of a hand-cranked device that delivered electric shocks to prisoners (North Caucasus Weekly, January 15).

Interfax quoted a press release issued by Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and Russia's Memorial human rights group on January 15 as saying that Israilov had complained to the Austrian police a few days before his murder that he was being followed. The press release quoted Rachel Denber of Human Rights Watch as saying that human rights activists are familiar with Israilov's case and view his claims of torture as fully credible.

The Associated Press on January 16 quoted Human Rights Watch as urging Russian and Austrian authorities to investigate Israilov's murder. Tatyana Lokshina at the Moscow office of Human Rights Watch told the Associated Press an "urgent and detailed" investigation is needed to bring Israilov's killers to justice and called on authorities to ensure the safety of Israilov's pregnant wife and three children who remain in Austria. "Israilov is not the only critic of the Chechen leadership to die or disappear," Lokshina told the news agency.

According to the Associated Press, the Vienna public prosecutor's office said it had no proof that Israilov was killed by a hit man or that the killing was political. The office said Austrian police had detained a 40-year-old man of Chechen origin in whose car the killers escaped, but the man denied any involvement.

In addition, the Associated Press reported that a lawyer in Vienna released a statement purportedly from Israilov's father, saying his son joined the Chechen insurgency in 2001, detained in 2003 and tortured by Kadyrov and others. The news agency quoted Ekaterina Sokiryanskaya of the Memorial human rights group as saying she interviewed Israilov in Austria, and that he told her he had offered to work for Kadyrov in return for amnesty after being subjected to torture over several months.

Chechen government spokesman Lyoma Gadaev told the Associated Press that he did not recall "a bodyguard named Israilov near Ramzan Kadyrov," adding that there "are many cases when people flee abroad and make up various statements just to get asylum." Sokiryanskaya said Israilov fled to Austria in 2003, and Chechen authorities detained and tortured his father for ten months. According to the Associated Press, the statement from his father said both he and Umar fled Chechnya in 2004.

Reuters on January 15 quoted Austrian state prosecutor Gerhard Jarosch as telling a news conference that Israilov, who had been granted political asylum in Austria, had told authorities that he thought he was being followed. But Jarosch said there was currently no evidence suggesting that the killers were hired or politically motivated.

"A political background (for the murder) is something we are considering, but we need proof," Jarosch said. "So far we don't have any. There are many possible motives for a murder." He said that the owner of the car in which Israilov's killers escaped, an asylum seeker also from Chechnya, was arrested on January 13 and that police were still searching for the killers.

A spokeswoman for the European Court of Human Rights confirmed to Reuters that Israilov had filed a complaint against Russia in 2006 but added that the application was not completed and the court could therefore not disclose details of the original complaint.

Meanwhile, in a statement posted on the Chechenpress website on January 15, Akhmed Zakaev, the London-based prime minister of the separatist Chechen Republic of Ichkeria (ChRI), criticized the European Union for failing to protect "ChRI citizens" living in Europe from Russia's special services. Zakaev cited the murder of former ChRI president Zelimkhan Yandarbiev in Qatar in February 2004, the radioactive poisoning death of the dissident and former Russian special services officer, Aleksandr Litvinenko, in London in November 2006, the murder of former Chechen rebel field commander Islam Dzhanibekov in Istanbul last December (North Caucasus Weekly, December 18) and the murder of Umar Israilov in Vienna.

"We believe that the Austrian authorities, which granted political asylum to Umar Israilov and his family and guaranteed the security of his residence on their territory, will do their best to bring to justice the perpetrators and masterminds of this crime, regardless of who stands behind it," Zakaev said. He added that the ChRI government is in "close contact" with the Austrian authorities and would launch its own investigation of Israilov's murder.

Ruslan Yamadaev's Brother: He was Murdered by Kadyrov's Associate

The Rosbalt News Agency reported on January 20 that Isa Yamadaev, brother of Ruslan Yamadaev, the former State Duma deputy murdered in Moscow last September (North Caucasus Weekly, September 26), says investigators believe the murder was committed by Aslan Diliev, a former member of the Vostok battalion-the now-defunct Russian army special forces unit that was headed by another Yamadaev brother, Sulim-and a former adviser to Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov. Isa Yamadaev told Rosbalt that Diliev has been charged with the murder of Mustafa Shidaev, a leader of the Lazansky criminal group, but is also suspected of murdering Ruslan Yamadaev, as well as Alikhan Mutsaev-a former bodyguard to ex-Chechen President Alu Alkhanov-and two Chechen girls. According to Rosbalt, Diliev was arrested last December 24 in connection with the murder of Shidaev, who was killed in May 2006.

"That person was at one time part our family's entourage," Isa Yamadaev told Rosbalt. "He even served in the Vostok battalion. I suspect that already back then he was planted by our enemies and told them everything about our actions." Yamadaev told the news agency that Dliev was kicked out of the Vostok battalion two years ago, after which he went to work for Kadyrov, becoming an adviser to the Chechen president on coordinating the security agencies in Chechnya's Vedeno district. "When Ruslan's murder took place, we immediately decided that Dliev could have committed it: the way in which the crime was carried out and certain other information suggested this. That person is prepared to do anything for money. Now representatives of the investigation team are saying this."

Isa Yamadaev also told Rosbalt that his $5 million house in the Chechen town of Gudermes had been burned down on December 31. He also claimed that Sulim Yamadaev's home in Chechnya was burned down earlier this month. "The authorities in the republic are now creating complete lawlessness," he said.

Kavkazky Uzel reported on January 15 that Sulim Yamadaev's home in Gudermes had been burned down by unknown persons earlier that day. The website quoted an anonymous Chechen law-enforcement source as saying that a group of people had arrived at the home in two cars, shot out the street lights around it and then torched it. However, the Chechen Interior Ministry said that while a house in Gudermes had burned down that day, it belonged to a local resident named Suleiman Dudaev, not to Sulim Yamadaev.

The conflict between Kadyrov's followers and the Yamadaevs' Vostok battalion burst into the open last April following a reported armed clash between Vostok battalion members and members of Kadyrov's bodyguard detail in Gudermes. The Vostok and Zapad battalions, both of which were subordinated to Russian Defense Ministry's Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU) and thus not under Kadyrov's command, have since be disbanded.

Deteriorating Security Situation in Ingushetia Sparks First Ever Visit to Region by Medvedev
By Valery Dzutsev

The security situation in Ingushetia still bothers Moscow so much that Russian President Dmitry Medvedev paid an unexpected visit to the republic on January 20, along with the director of the Federal Security Service (FSB) and other top officials. Calling the situation in Ingushetia very complicated and saying that it is necessary to impose extraordinary measures there, Medvedev promised to inject nearly $1 billion into the tiny impoverished republic to develop its economy and eliminate the insurgency's social base (Reuters, Prime-Tass, January 20). FSB Director Aleksandr Bortnikov accused unspecified foreign forces of using NGOs to destabilize the situation in the North Caucasus (RIA Novosti, January 20). Russian officials have habitually accused Western countries and NGOs of destabilizing the situation in the North Caucasus but have rarely provided any evidence to support the claim.

In the meantime the violence in the republic has hardly abated since the recent change of leadership in Ingushetia, which saw Yunus-Bek Yevkurov replace Murat Zyazikov as the republic's president. Dozens of people have died in attacks since Yevkurov came to power, and some people on the ground view his appointment with skepticism. A source in Ingushetia told Jamestown: "Kidnappings and killings have not stopped in the republic and do not appear to have diminished. He [Yevkurov] was sent here to search and destroy and that is what he is going to do."

The bomb that destroyed the building of the Ingush branch of Russian bailiffs' service in Nazran on January 13 (North Caucasus Weekly, January 15) renewed talk of bitter disagreements between the Moscow-appointed Ingush authorities and the underground armed opposition.

Eight people-four men and four women-died in the blast, which the Russian media was quick to announce as a terror attack (, January 13). President Yevkurov announced a three-day mourning period in the republic, while President Medvedev telephoned Yevkurov, offering his condolences and urging him to find out exactly what had happened (, January 14).

The initial widely-held assumption that insurgents were responsible for the blast was soon denied by the authorities, who instead suggested that a gas leak had caused the explosion (RIA Novosti, January 14). The Regnum News Agency reported on January 13 that the bailiffs had for several days prior to the explosion warded off the strong smell of gas by extensively ventilating the building and therefore the explosion was caused by official negligence and carelessness.

None of the main insurgent websites has claimed responsibility for the attack or even commented on the explosion.

According to the Kavkazky Uzel website, there have been two dozen attacks using explosive devices in various Ingush towns since the beginning of December 2008.

There are important differences between bomb attacks in Ingushetia and those in other parts of the North Caucasus. While many public places like markets are heavily guarded in North Ossetia and Kabardino-Balkaria, the level of official protection of similar public places in both Ingushetia and Dagestan is much lower. Yet North Ossetia and Kabardino-Balkaria have suffered indiscriminate terror attacks against conspicuously civilian objects, including markets, while no similar attacks have been reported in Ingushetia or Dagestan thus far. So while the overall level of insurgency-related violence is many times greater in Ingushetia and Dagestan than in North Ossetia and Kabardino-Balkaria, the general public appears to be in less danger in the more violent republics. The logic behind this is that the insurgents in Ingushetia and Dagestan do not attack civilians en masse, targeting only very specific individuals or government institutions.

Still, there have been regular reports about explosive devices found at Ingush markets, which suggests that forces other than the Ingush insurgency may be at play when it comes to violence or the threat of violence in the republic.

A number of people and organizations have praised Moscow's decision to appoint Yevkurov as Ingushetia's president last October 30. The head of the Moscow Helsinki Group, Lyudmila Alekseyeva, saw progress in the area of human rights in Ingushetia following the new president's appointment (Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, December 26, 2008). Some members of the Ingush opposition became members of the Yevkurov's government, including Magomed-Sali Aushev, an active member of the Ingush opposition who was appointed the republic's vice premier (, November 25, 2008)., the famous website of the Ingush opposition that actively coordinated mass protests during the tenure of the highly unpopular former president, Murat Zyazikov, has even been accused of siding with the authorities.

In an apparent move to rally greater popular support for his policies, Yevkurov has proposed calling an Ingush national congress on January 31 to discuss important issues facing the republic. The move obliquely undermines the validity and authority of the existing Ingush parliament, which consists of 27 members, and is supposedly designed to represent the people of Ingushetia. This can be perceived as an additional sign of the forced degradation of democratic rule in the republic.

The existing civil conflict is further aggravated by the disputed borders of Ingushetia. The most dangerous potential hot spot is the contentious border between Ingushetia and North Ossetia. A conference of Ingush NGOs has called on Ingushetia's government to demand that Ingush lands that are currently part of North Ossetia be returned to the republic (, January 19).

However, the continuing low-grade civil war in Ingushetia may induce further steps by Moscow to quell the insurgency. If nothing works to pacify the situation in Ingushetia, some forces in Moscow may be tempted to proceed with the project of reunifying Ingushetia and Chechnya or even a broader overhaul of administrative structures in the North Caucasus, which could include the elimination of national autonomies. Prognosticating is made more complicated by uncertainty over the origins of the violence in Ingushetia and the North Caucasus more broadly. It is unclear, for instance, whether the violence in Ingushetia and elsewhere in the North Caucasus is in protest against Russian policies or whether it is the other way around -that certain Moscow-sponsored forces are heating up the situation in order to justify further controversial reforms.

A similar chain of reforms followed the Beslan hostage crisis in September 2004. Just two weeks after that attack, then Russian President Vladimir Putin proposed abolishing elections for regional governors, turning the post of governor into an appointed position instead. In an obviously superficial explanation, Putin suggested that this would enable the government to fight terrorism better. The general public was so stunned by the Beslan attack that there was very little protest against what some legal experts described as an unconstitutional move.

Thus using public shock as a way to introduce completely random and unrelated political reforms is not something new in Russian policy making, especially when it comes to the North Caucasus, and could be repeated once again.

Valery Dzutsev is a Muskie Fellow at the University of Maryland and the former Coordinator for North Caucasus at the Institute of War and Peace Reporting (IWPR).

Markelov Assassination Tied to Release of Budanov?
By Fatima Tlisova

Mountains of flowers covering fresh bloodstains have become a familiar sign of the times in Moscow. A memorial consisting of bouquets and burning candles was spontaneously erected by people on the place where lawyer Stanislav Markelov and journalist Anastasia Baburova were murdered on January 19 just a dozen meters from the Kremlin.

A number of Russian news agencies posted on-line video footages depicting how the police officers and people dressed as street cleaners dispersed women who had gathered at the site of the murder and tore down from the walls posters and photos of the two victims with the same humiliating refrain: "This is not a graveyard!" As a result of this standoff with the women, the police apparently agreed to leave the flowers and photos where they were but took down all of the posters. These were homemade leaflets and one of them was a plain sheet of paper with a handwritten question: "Russia, aren't you ashamed of your henchmen?" (

The Russian daily newspaper Kommersant wrote that the murder produced a popular response that is unusually strong for modern Russia ( Protest demonstrations took place simultaneously in several Russian cities. Several thousand Chechens demonstrated in Grozny, the capital of Chechnya. Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov posthumously awarded the murdered attorney with the Order "For Services to the Chechen Republic."

The Russian authorities responded to the outpour of popular anger with methods that have become customary for the current regime. On January 20, police units dispersed a march in Moscow by more than 200 anti-fascist activists to honor the memory of Markelov and Baburova. Dozens of protesters were savagely beaten by OMON riot police and more than fifty were arrested and had to spend the night behind bars. Similar protest actions took place in other districts of Moscow and St. Petersburg (

On January 21, the Communist faction in the State Duma offered to take control over the homicide investigation. It is noteworthy that the communists' offer was supported by the representatives of the pro-Kremlin United Russia party (

Investigators believe that the main target of this double murder was Markelov, while Baburova, a college senior at Moscow State University who was accompanying Markelov after the press conference, turned out to be an accidental victim of the assassin. It should be noted that Baburova was beginning her career as a journalist at the opposition newspaper Novaya Gazeta. Representatives of the Investigative Committee of the Russian Prosecutor General's Office, which is in charge of the investigation of this murder, has already stated that Markelov's assassination could be related to his professional activities (

One of the main versions voiced almost immediately in the mass media was that the murder was connected to the case of Russian Colonel Yuri Budanov. Budanov's name resurfaced in the investigation of Markelov's murder for two reasons. First, the shooting of the lawyer followed the colonel's early release from prison on January 15. Markelov, who had defended the interests of the family of the Chechen girl that Budanov murdered, publicly criticized the court's decision and declared his intention to appeal the early release of Budanov to the European Court of Human Rights. He also told the press that he possessed additional facts of crimes committed by Budanov in Chechnya.

The second reason why the murder was immediately tied to the release of the colonel was because of threats that Markelov received several days before his murder. Amnesty International leaked to the press the text of the SMS message Markelov received on his mobile phone on January 14, five days before his death. It read as follows: "You, brainless animal ... again sticking your nose into Budanov's case??!! Idiot, you couldn't find a calmer method of suicide??? Go quickly to the center of transplantology, and perhaps your innards will be useful there for somebody ... at least you won't die in vain then ... and perhaps you will get some money ... You really decided to improve this year by relieving us of your presence?" (

Budanov was initially sentenced to serve 10 years in prison because in March 2000-on his daughter's birthday-after drinking vodka heavily, he abducted, raped and strangled Elza Kungaeva, an 18-year-old Chechen girl. In the course of the subsequent court proceedings, which lasted three years, Budanov became a principal figure in the Russian-Chechen standoff. On the one hand, Chechens, who suffered thousands of victims similar to Kungaeva and knew of only a few cases in which war criminals were actually punished, hoped that justice would prevail. On the other hand, for the camp of military patriots, including high-ranking officers as well as neo-fascists, Budanov became a Russian hero who had been punished unjustly for honestly serving his homeland. His supporters thought that avenging Budanov was the equivalent of restoring the honor of wearing Russia's military uniform.

The famous Russian writer and journalist, Yulia Latynina, has convincingly tied Markelov's assassination to Budanov's release. She told the newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda she was sure the murderers were "fascists" who "killed Markelov for Budanov," adding that Markelov was "not just a human rights advocate with lawyer's diploma" but was "also engaged in anti-fascist activities" (

In the meantime Yuri Budanov insisted he had absolutely nothing to do with the double murder. "Rough work ... These prosecutors do not have a single chance to implicate me in connection to this incident," the colonel said in an interview with Komsomolskaya Pravda (

Budanov also stated that he paid in full for killing Kungaeva and even expressed indignation at the killers of Markelov and Baburova for trying to drive a wedge into Russian-Chechen relations. Coming from Budanov, such statements sound cynical to say the least. It is worth recalling his threats directed against the Kungaev family's attorney: "I will kill you as soon as I get out of prison, even if it's ten years from now" (Chechnya Weekly, July 31, 2003).

Meanwhile, leaked details from the investigation indicate that there were no witnesses to the double murder and that there is not even an approximate visual sketch of the assassin, even though the shooting occurred in broad daylight during peak traffic hour at the center of Moscow and close to the entrance to a subway station bustling with people (

The opposition newspaper Novaya Gazeta featured several articles about the assassination of Markelov and Baburova. Both victims were connected to the newspaper, which has already lost four of its employees, including the famous journalist Anna Politkovskaya. The newspaper also published two interviews with the murdered attorney. One was recorded in 2002 and mostly dealt with the Budanov case, while the second was more recent and taken from Markelov by Baburova.

Baburvoa worked at Novaya Gazeta as a non-staff reporter for only three months. She studied journalism at Moscow State University and investigated the activities of fascist groups. In her blog on Live Journal (, she posted photos and comments from anti-fascist actions and protest demonstrations that she participated in. The on-line postings also included descriptions of incidents in which Baburova was arrested by police and beaten. Thus Baburova's high level of social activism raises doubt over the presumed randomness of her killing.

In a November 19 posting about the arrest of a well-known anti-fascist leader in Moscow, Aleksei Osimov, Baburova mentioned that Markelov decided to represent Osimov, who was being accused by the authorities of hooliganism for carrying out public actions in Moscow.

Novaya Gazeta noted on January 21 that Markelov's spectrum of activities was broad. The attorney often took cases that his colleagues considered either absolutely hopeless or extremely dangerous. Markelov worked with the opposition newspaper and cooperated with Anna Politkovskaya very closely. It was Markelov who led the cases that were launched on the basis of investigative materials discovered by Politkovskaya. According to Markelov's close friend, Chechen human rights defender Natalia Estemirova, it was only because of the personal bravery of Markelov that war criminals were punished (

However, thousands of assassins remain at large, Estemirova wrote in an article for Novaya Gazeta. In conclusion, she posed a question that is completely disadvantageous for the Kremlin: "Markelov's murder is a declaration of war. Now the question is: whose side is the state on?"

Fatima Tlisova is a Human Rights Fellow at the Carr Center for Human Rights Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University.