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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 Universitys 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 Moscows 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 Kungaevas 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 Newsru.com reported on January 20, many human rights activists believe Markelovs murder was directly connected to the Kungaeva case. It should be noted that Markelov had filed an appeal with Russias Supreme Court challenging Budanovs 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 Kungaevas 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 Budanovs early release. I am sure this is the work of Budanovs people, Kungaev told Interfax. It is also a warning to other lawyers as well as rights defenders and journalists to keep away from Budanovs 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 Markelovs 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 Markelovs 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 Budanovs condolences were cynical at best, Kommersant on January 20 quoted one of Markelovs 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 partys lawyer, Syzganov told the newspaper. Most likely, somebody simply took advantage of Yuri Budanovs 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, Markelovs 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, Newsru.com 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 Markelovs 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 Murdalovs torture. According to the Associated Press, the Vienna public prosecutors 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