Russia: Lawyer Markelov and Journalist Baburova Shot Dead in Moscow

Russian human rights lawyer Stanislav Markelov, 34, was shot to death Jan. 19 as he walked from a news conference along Prechistenka Street in central Moscow. Journalist Anastasia Baburova, 25, who accompanied Markelov, was also shot as she tried to intervene; she died in hospital a few hours later.

Baburova was a freelance journalist for Novaya Gazeta.

Markelov was the attorney for the family of Elza (Kheda) Kungaeva, an 18-year-old Chechen woman killed by Russian colonel Yuri Budanov in March 2000. Budanov was granted early parole and released from prison on Jan. 15, 2009. At the Jan. 19 news conference, Markelov said he planned to file an appeal to the European Court of Human Rights against Budanov's early release.

Markelov's other high-profile client was journalist Mikhail Beketov, who was attacked and severely beaten in Nov. 2008 (see this Chicago Tribune story for more info).

The New York Times quoted a spokeswoman for Novaya Gazeta, who said that Markelov had also worked on “almost every case opened as a result of the work of Anna Politkovskaya,” a prominent Russian journalist who was shot dead in Oct. 2006.

Many Russian bloggers reacted with shock and outrage to the broad-daylight shootings of Markelov and Baburova. Below are some of the initial responses, translated from Russian.

LJ user tupikin:

[…] I've known Stas [Stanislav] for God knows how many years, from the early 1990s perhaps, from the time he was a law student. Then he finished his studies, cut his long hair short and became a lawyers who was defending the truth, defending human rights even when it seemed that it was impossible to defend them.

He worked in Chechnya against the federals, he worked against the police, he worked against the Nazis.

And he, damn it, was an incredibly cheerful and optimistic person, despite all these nightmares that accompanied him in life. […]

LJ user alisezus:

I've no idea who killed Stas and Anastasia Baburova. Whoever it was – may he be damned.

Stas used to offer a helping hand to the most humiliated, the most insignificant and, often, the most despised people – those who could no longer hope to get any qualified legal assistance.

A few times I gave Stas’ number to my own friends. He never refused to help. Haven't lost a single case.

Eternal memory to you.

LJ user oleg-shein:

[…] Markelov worked on a huge number of cases, which, as a rule, had something to do with illegal activities of the officials. We met when protesters were beaten up in [Elista] five years ago and one person died. We succeeded in replacing the prosecutor then and halting prosecution against those who participated in the protest. There there many other episodes. […]

He was a sincere, brave and very compassionate person, who had a good sense of irony and sarcasm, a true menace to those who were used to humiliating ordinary people with impunity.

LJ user xanzhar:

[Lawyer Yuri Shmidt] writes that [Markelov] was too brave. Careless. Maybe he did not completely understand what country he lived in. And we, too, did not understand it completely. How disgusting…

One of the comments to this post, from LJ user aquim:

He understood everything. Namely, that a real war is taking place in the country. He knew that he was taking risks all the time.

LJ user marchenk:

[…] Stas was known and respected by everyone who was involved in some kind of social activism. Not just in Moscow. Hard to believe.

He is survived by wife and two children. […]

A couple comments to this post:


I talked to him on Thursday. He was convinced that Budanov did not deserve [early conditional release]. To the question on what's to be done now he replied: “We'll fight.” An anti-fascist. Beketov's lawyer. […]


[…] Stas belonged with human rights activists, trade unionists, anarchists, anti-fascists, those who advocated the rights of migrants and refugees. He was perceived not just as a lawyer […] but as an activist as well. […]

[…] Throughout his involvement in law and activism, he had been getting many different threats. Budanov's case, Beketov's case, the European Court of Human Rights cases, support for anti-fascists…

LJ user smitrich:

[…] It resembles the murder of Politkovskaya too much.

LJ user voinodel, in a comment to this post:

No, Dima, this murder is much worse.

LJ user voinodel – and his readers – in the comment section to a post on his own blog:


I think this is part of a script, and the early conditional release of the defendant is, too. The goal is to provoke a social collapse.


Would be okay if it was so. But this seems to be no longer a professional theater, but an amateur performance.


Amateur performance is predictable and provokable, too.


Yes, you've understood me correctly. But [amateur performance] is scarier because it is taking place on a larger scale.


And the scale is frightening – I read LJ a lot. And I'm shocked that it is possible to screw (pardon) normal people's brains so much that they begin to write really delirious things with foam at their mouths.



Markelov, as we know, was Mikhail Beketov's lawyer, but nothing but Budanov is being discussed. I think that those who Beketov was [fighting against] could have predicted such a “course of public thought.”


[…] As for Beketov, I absolutely agree with you. But this has to do with us journalists. People will read more eagerly about the murder of the lawyer of the Kungaevs than about the murder of the lawyer of “some” Beketov.


A few links to English-language posts on the double murder:

- Keith Gessen Blog:

[…] I’ve been watching TV since I got home… and it’s amazing. It’s amazing. The most offensive, most propagandistic of the evening news shows is on Channel 3, TV-Center, it’s not a major channel so they try harder—the woman broadcaster acted like it was Markelov’s fault that he got shot on the night she was hosting the news. “Another of those killings that are said to ‘resonate,’” she began contemptuously before reading the details as quickly as possible—as though, ok, she understood it was “news,” but also she knew this was all part of Markelov’s brilliant marketing strategy, his media campaign, and, frankly, she found it in poor taste.

There was no hint of an idea that Putin or Medvedev would respond, or that people would grieve, or that something really really horrible had just happened, that they were killing all the best people in Russia and no one was going to do anything about it. […]

- Ongoing coverage at Robert Amsterdam's Blog, which includes Grigory Pasko's report; a post on the earlier threats that Markelov received; updates on the media and advocacy groups’ reactions; and a post on Budanov's early release, drafted when Markelov was still alive.


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