01/20/2009, 00.00
RUSSIA

Lawyer and journalist killed, had been investigating crimes in Chechnya

Murder in broad daylight in downtown Moscow. Stanislav Markelov was the lawyer for the family of an 18-year-old Chechen woman strangled in 2000 by a Russian officer. Anastasia Baburova was a freelance journalist for Novaya Gazeta, the newspaper of Anna Politkovskaya.

Moscow (AsiaNews/Agencies) - The lawyer Stanislav Markelov (in the photo) and the journalist Anastasia Baburova have been killed in an ambush in downtown Moscow. The killing took place at 2:30 PM on January 19, near the Kropotkinskaya metro station.

Markelov, 34, was well known for his efforts on behalf of human rights. Baburova, 25, was a freelance journalist for Novaya Gazeta, the newspaper for which Anna Politkovskaya worked. Both were involved in investigations into violence committed by Russian soldiers in Chechnya.

The initial reconstruction of the ambush says that a man wearing a green ski mask snuck up behind the two. The killer first shot Markelov in the head with a pistol equipped with a silencer, and then shot Baburova, who, transported to City Hospital No. 1 in critical condition, died a few hours later.

The two were coming back from a press conference held near the spot of the ambush. The meeting was dedicated to the recent decision by the court in Ulyanovsk to release Yuri Budanov, the first Russian officer to be convicted for violence against the population in Chechnya. Markelov was the lawyer of the family of Kheda Kungayeva, an 18-year-old Chechen woman killed by Budanov in March of 2000.

The officer was sentenced to 10 years in prison after admitting that he strangled the woman in a fit of rage: he had suspected Kungayeva of being a rebel sniper. Arrested in 2003, Budanov had been cleared of the charges by the supreme court, which maintained that the Russian officer had been under stress and psychological tension accumulated during his service in Chechnya.

Colleagues of the journalist and lawyer say that the killing of Marjelov and Baburova is strictly connected to their investigations into the violence committed by military officers in Chechnya. Anatoly Bagmet, the head of the investigations, says that the motives for the killing are not yet clear: "Investigations are underway into various hypotheses in the killing of Stanislav Markelov, including connections to his professional activity as a lawyer."

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