Saturday, January 24, 2009

The Russian Security Services—The Prime Murder Suspect

Via Jamestown Foundation (UK) -

On Monday, January 19, at around 3:00 P.M., a Novaya Gazeta reporter Anastasiya Baburova, 25, and a prominent human rights lawyer Stanislav Markelov, 34, were shot in the head in a Moscow street some half a mile from the Kremlin by a masked gunman with a silencer-fitted pistol. Baburova and Markelov were walking together toward a metro station after a press conference at which Markelov had criticized the early release on January 15 of former Russian Colonel Yuri Budanov, a tank commander convicted and imprisoned in 2003 on charges of murdering a young Chechen girl named Elza Kungayeva in 2000. Markelov represented the Kungayeva family and was planning to appeal Budanov's release. According to the Moscow police, information retrieved from closed circuit TV cameras installed in the street indicates that the gunman followed Baburova and Markelov from the press conference venue before crossing the street and catching up wit them for the hit. Markelov was killed immediately; Baburova died several hours later in a Moscow hospital (Interfax, January 19; Itar-Tass, January 20; Kommersant, January 20; Novaya Gazeta, January 21).


In the opinion of the Novaya Gazeta staff, of which I am a member, the Russian security services or rogue elements within these services are the prime suspects in the murders of Baburova and Markelov. The boldness of the attack by a single gunman in broad daylight in the center of Moscow required professional preliminary planning and surveillance that would necessitate the security services, which closely control that particular neighborhood, turning a blind eye. The use of a gun with a silencer does not fit with the usual pattern of murders by nationalist neo-Nazi youth groups in Russia, which use homemade explosives, knifes, and group assaults to beat up and stab opponents to death.

The offices of Russia's rulers President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin have not issued any statements expressing indignation or offering any condolences after the two murders. This follows the usual behavioral pattern of the authoritarian Putin regime when its critics are murdered in cold blood. During the funeral of Politkovskaya in October 2006, there was not one prominent figure from the Kremlin or government and no one acting as an official representative of President Putin to offer condolences or lay a wreath. Instead, Putin publicly declared that Politkovskaya was "extremely insignificant, well-known only in the West" and claimed that the foreign enemies of Russia had planned her murder “to create a wave of anti-Russian sentiment internationally” (see EDM, October 11, 2006). Today again, Putin and Medvedev have not publicly sided with the victims of a terrorist assault in the center of Moscow, apparently since the victims are opponents of regime.

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