A quick rundown of Western media responses to Natalia Estemirova’s murder from Newsy.com.
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- By Sean — 10 years ago
The opening paragraph of Kommersant‘s article on Stanislav Markelov’s funeral reads:
Ostankinskoe cemetery where the jurist Stanislav Markelov was to be buried was heavily guarded. OMON, police buses, and patrol cars. They asked mourners to show the contents of their bags and required them to show documents. There were whispers in the crowd that police feared a terrorist attack. They expected high state officials to be among the double murders’ mourners. But government officials didn’t come (However, there were public politicians from both government and opposition). It’s notable that representatives of the Russian government also didn’t give any condolences. But yesterday Viktor Yushchenko send at telegram to his countrywoman. (The journalist Anna Baburova, who was shot after the lawyer, is a native of Ukraine.)
Not a consolatory peep from the Russian government? Then what were all those Robocops supposed to represent?
- By Sean — 8 years ago
Russia’s Far East has always been an unruly place. Tsars and Communists alike dumped its criminals and politicals there. In the interwar period it was a hot bed for lawlessness and banditry, where gangs and holdouts of the White Army made life difficult for the new Soviet state. There is one historical artifact that always stands out in my mind when it comes to the Russia’s Far East. I tend to give it to my students so they can get a flavor of the heady days of the Russian Revolution. The document is an anonymous letter to Lenin dated 15 January 1918. After lambasting Lenin for not keeping his promise to deliver “peace, bread, land, and liberty in three days’ time” the complainant ended with this warning: “If you’ve picked up the reins [of power] then go ahead and drive, and if you can’t, then, honey, you can take a flying fuck to hell, or as we say in Siberia, you’re a goddamned motherfucker, son of an Irkutsk cunt, who’d like to sell us out to the Germans. No, you won’t be selling us out: don’t forget that we Siberians are all convicts.”*
This document has resonated with me over the last few days as Russian police forces scoured the Primorye Krai looking for the so-called “Russian Rambos.” The problem is that the evidence that these guys are “Rambos,” “Robin Hoods” or “revolutionaries” is rather thin. It seems that they are at best common criminals and worse Russian fascists, making the supposed support of the “partisans” quite disturbing.
- By Sean — 10 years ago
Stanislav Markelov had a lot of enemies. In addition to representing the Kungayev family, his other clients included: Khimkinskaya Pravda editor Mikhail Beketov (he’s on the verge of death), Chechen Yana Neserkhoyeva, a Nord-Ost hostage accused of helping terrorists in 2002, Zelimkhan Murdalov, a kidnapped Grozny resident who was tortured to death by an OMON officer, and AntiFa activist Alexei Olesinov. Representing these types of people will make you enemies of Russian nationalists, Chechens, local businessmen, police and security forces, and skinheads. There is also, of course, Colonel Yuri Budanov, whose release last week was opposed by Markelov.
That list of enemies makes for a long list of potential perpetrators. Logic dictates that Budanov is the chief suspect, but the colonel denies any involvement in the murder. “Do you think that after several days of freedom I had a burning desire to do more time?” he told Komsomolskaya pravda in an interview. He called the murder a “provocation.”
Some suspect skinheads did the deed given that Markelov was attacked by five of them in 2004. Apparently he received several SMS threats from skins in the says before his murder. But can we really expect skins to use a silencer? Their methods tend to be a bit cruder.
Then, as always, there is the Chechen angle. As it seems with most murders of high profile personalities in Russia, there is a conspiracy behind the conspiracy, where a Chechen or a deposed oligarch stands at the end of a complex nefarious web. Sometimes these are viewed as one of the same entity. But this time it’s solely Chechens, according to Vladimir Karchevsky, the lawyer for the Markelov family. “Budanov is a smokescreen for the real murderer,” the jurist told Izvestiia. “The real murderer probably timed his crime to coincide with Budanov’s release – in order to deflect suspicions.”
Izvestiia even suggested that Markelov might have known something about Anna Politkovskaya’s murderer. I’m sure that this is only the beginning of what kind of tales will be spun around this one.
While the list of potential killers is long, Markelov’s work also got him a lot of friends as memorials to his memory attest. Hundreds of people gathered at the site where Markelov and Anastatsia Baburova were slain on Monday. Even a Russian Orthodox priest stressed that Markelov and Buburova’s death fell on Epiphany. Hopefully this will translate into a social epiphany on the dangers Russian lawyers and journalists face. Gatherings of AntiFa activists occured in St. Petersburg and Moscow to honor Markelov and Baburova. Barburova’s writings focused on Russian neo-nazis and anti-fascism (Also see her Live Journal blog. OpenDemocracy.net has translated of some of her last blog entries.). Thousands marched in Grozny to remember Markelov’s work on the behalf of the war torn republic Chechnya. Apparently, Markelov even has friends among Razman Kadyrov’s government. Upon hearing of the jurist’s death, the Chechen hetman awarded him with a postumous medal to recognize “his merits to the Chechen Republic.” “Stanislav Markelov was held in special esteem in our republic,” Kadyrov said. “His name was a synonym for justice.”
In the end, the memory of Markelov and Barburova might be all people have. Justice in these cases is rarely forthcoming. Instead we have a kind of perpetual danse macabre between killers and their victims. As an editorial in Novaya gazeta reminds us, “The killers have no fear because they know they will not be punished. But neither are their victims afraid, because when you defend others you cease to fear.”