- human rights - Russia
Several dozen people gathered to mourn lawyer Stanislav Markelov and rookie reporter Anastasia Baburova at the spot where they were gunned down in a Moscow street last Monday. Two days later the small crowd has gone and the Kremlin nearby remains silent.
"The Russian government has absolutely failed to to speak out loudly and clearly against this kind of crime," says Alisson Gill from Human Rights Watch Russia. "They have failed to protect human rights defenders, journalists and human rights lawyers who risk their life or their work.”
Like the majority of those who criticise the Russian authorities, Stanislav Markelov was often threatened. One of the last anonymous telephone messages he received said: "You bastard, you are still meddling in the Budanov business! You couldn't find a better reason to kill yourself!"
"It was something that didn’t bother him that much, it seemed he didn’t want to be bothered about it. But I think he received threats before, this is definitely not the first time,” says Friederike Behr from Amnesty International Russia.
The police say they have got their best investigators working to catch those behind the double-murder but the victims' relatives already doubt that the case will ever be solved.
In Russia, contract killings are so common that even the keenest observers are losing count. “If we are talking about contract killings, I think there are at least several hundred each year,” says Oleg Panfilov from the Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations.
Contract killers in Moscow are not afraid of operating in broad daylight: here a Chechen was shot just yards from the government headquarters, and two years ago journalist Anna Politkovskaya was gunned down outside her elevator. These are two previous murders that were never solved.
As in the Politkovskaya case, human rights lawyers say that the murders of Stanislav Markelov and Anastasia Babuova are directly linked to their professional activities. “It's a very clear warning to all human rights defenders to stop their actitivies...The authorities are presenting them as the enemy” says Karina Moskalenko, the lawyer for the family of Anna Politkovskaya.
At Novaya Gazeta, Baburova is the fourth journalist to be assassinated in eight years. “Our president and his prime minister are only busy with gas deals and nothing else. Journalists, lawyers, human rights defenders do not interest them at all,” says the Novaya Gazeta journalist Viacheslav Izmailov.
And Russians, too, don't seem to care. Almost no one has come out onto the streets in protest over this double murder in the very heart of Moscow.