A quick rundown of Western media responses to Natalia Estemirova’s murder from Newsy.com.
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A definitive narrative is forming in the Russian mainstream press about the Markelov-Baburova murders. This narrative says that it is unlikely that Colonel Yuriy Budanov has any connection to the murder because he has the most to lose. In fact, the quick finger pointing at Budanov is exactly what those crafty killers want us to do! As Aleksandr Kots writes in Komsomolka:
It would be no surprise if the real murderers were actually counting on this reaction. Their aim was probably not so much the man’s death as the uproar that would follow. And there is no doubt that this crime will draw as wide a reaction as the murder of journalist Anna Politkovskaya — it was staged too “successfully” and professionally. “Russia releases a war criminal who, upon gaining his freedom, starts taking revenge,” they will begin to say in the West. “Here is the true demonic face of the Russian authorities,” fugitive extremists and oligarchs of (exiled businessman Boris) Berezovsky’s caliber will chime in. “We did warn you!” And within Russia there will be a great torrent of accusations from human rights activists of every stripe, driving yet another wedge between the Caucasus and the rest of Russia to the beat of an invisible conductor’s baton.
Isn’t this the same line of reasoning the authorities gave for the Litvinenko and Politkovskaya murders? That the political murders were carried out by some nefarious force with the hopes of damaging Russia good name? Now I’m not saying that Kremlin Inc. (I’ll leave that to the Washington Post to make those insinuations) or that even Budanov is responsible (though I still think he is the logical prime suspect. Still, one must acknowledge that Markelov had a long list of enemies.), but this excuse is getting a bit old. In fact, it is a bit strange that the pro-Russia and Russophobic contingents appear to converge on the idea that there is a greater conspiracy behind every killing.
Another interesting addition to this narrative appears to be an effort to turn Baburova from collateral damage into a bona fide target of the killer. Kots throws out this theory:
As for slain journalist Anastasiya Baburova, she probably came under fire by chance, being next to the lawyer at that fateful moment. Incidentally, theories are already circulating that the hit men might also have been targeting (journalist) Yuliya Latynina, who not so long announced that she had received death threats. It is possible that the perpetrators mistook the young girl for the famous journalist, to whom she bears a certain resemblance…
Do we really need to feed Latynina’s paranoid narcissism? I hope that this nonsense doesn’t gain any traction beyond blurting out theories. Talk about feeding the beast. Just wait until the Western media gets a hold of that one. Especially since tying all of Russia’s political murders into a singular, nicely knotted narrative is already in the air . . .
Stanislav Markelov was buried yesterday at the Ostankinskii cemetery in Moscow. Around 200 people attended the jurists funeral in silence. There were no eulogies or speeches at the request of Markelov’s brother Mikhail. After the funeral Henry Reznik, the president of the Moscow Lawyers’ Guild, said a few words to reporters on behalf of his colleagues. “It’s clear that this is revenge. This crime is not against an individual and not against lawyers. It is against the state. This is an insolent demonstration of murder that occurred two steps from the Kremlin.” Indeed an attack on a Russian lawyer is also a strike against the legal system at large.
Several friends and colleagues gathered to bid farewell to Anastasia Baburova. Her parents arrived in Moscow to claim her body. She will be buried in her native Sevastopol.
Despite these solemn tributes to Markelov and Baburova, the politics of their memory has inflamed emotions, especially among Russia’s anarchist/anti-fascist community. Police detained 30 out of the 300 mostly anti-fascist youths who marched in an unsanctioned protest through the center of Moscow. A few anarchists smashed some shop windows and bashed escalator lamps as they fled into the metro. The outrage is apparent in this marcher’s response to those shocked by the “violence”
Honestly, I could not get my head around why they were so obsessed with those windows and bits of plastic, which at most are worth one thousandth of a commercial bank’s daily profits, when two very good people had been murdered and these people weren’t even strangers to the marchers.
Police halted a more subdued march in St. Petersburg. In Novosibirsk, a group of anarchists were attacked by a group of skinheads armed with “wooden clubs.” Chto Delat has more on antifa protesters confrontations with police.
Finally the murders have brought of another issue: whether journalists (and lawyers for that matter) should carry arms to protect themselves. Alexander Lebedev thinks so. The owner of Novaya gazeta (and now the new owner of the London Evening Standard which he purchased a 75,1 percent stake for £1) called on his reporters to carry guns. “The authorities don’t take seriously their responsibilities for the safety of Novaya Gazeta staff,” said Lebedev. “If the FSB is unable to guarantee the protection and safety of our journalists, we will try to defend them ourselves.” In an interview with Ekho Moskvy, Lebedev expanded on his reasoning.
“You tell me. … We have three options. The first one–to leave and turn off the lights … The second–to stop working. In other words, to stop writing about the special services, corruption, drugs, construction, fascists; to stop investigating the crimes of the powerful structures. Just to stop working! … The third option is to somehow defend ourselves. The state cannot defend us. It just cannot! It has gigantic defense budgets, a huge number of agencies. But, in general, it is busy doing its own business.”
Indeed, Novaya especially has suffered “war-like casulties” over the last few years. Baburova is the fourth Novaya jounralist (the others being Igor Domnikov, Yuri Shchekochikhin, and Anna Politkovskaya) to suffer a violent death since 2001. Unsuprisingly, the police shot down this idea saying “the more guns, the more disorder.”
In regard to who might have caused the latest incident of disorder, the trail is dead cold. The police have little evidence to go on. They have no witnesses who saw the killer. Images from security cameras don’t reveal the his face (he was wearing a ski mask anyway) but investigators are still working with the video. The killer didn’t even drop the gun which is characteristic of professional hits. The only hard evidence the police have are the bullets that downed Markelov and Baburova.
Given this, it already looks like these brazen killings are on track to becoming like other Russian political murders: unsolved.Post Views: 642
As many already know, human rights lawyer Stanislav Markelov and Novaya gazeta journalist Anastasia Baburova were gunned down in Moscow near the Kropotkinskaya metro on Monday afternoon. According to reports, a man in a green ski mask approached Markelov from behind and unloaded a few rounds into his head, execution style. Baburova was seriously injured when she tried to intervene. She died in a local hospital a few hours earlier. The gunman fled the scene.
Kommersant gives this description of the killing:
At 2:45 p.m. Stanislav Markelov exited the International Press Center with Novaya gazeta journalist Anastasia Baburova. They went down Prechistenka toward the Koprotkinskaya metro station. The assailant, a young man of around 180 cm height, dressed in a black trench coat. dark jeans and a green ski mask, went from across the street towards them. He followed he followed his victims for several minutes, and then, not far from the metro, he crossed the street and shot the lawyer in the back of the head with a pistol with a silencer. After Stanislav Markelov fell, the killer quickly made his way down Gogolevskii boulevard. Shocked by the incident, Anastasia Baburova gathered herself, screamed, and what eyewitnesses say, she instinctively went after the murder. That sealed her fate. The criminal turned back and shot the young woman in the head. “Not many men would dare act in such a situation as she did,” Dmitrii Muratov the editor-in-chief of Novaya gazeta told Kommersant. According to him, Anastasia was a night student in the journalism department at MGU, and had worked for the newspaper since October of last year. Her writings dedicated to investigating the activities of neo-fascist groups. She died from her wounds in the evening. She never regained consciousness.
Robert Amsterdam has already done a rapid fire blitz of posts on the incident. I recommend readers to point their mouse there.
Markelov was clearly the victim of a contract killing. He was representing the family of Elza Kungayeva, 18, a Chechen woman who was allegedly raped then strangled to death by Colonel Yuri Budanov in 2000. Budanov was sentenced to 10 years in prison in 2005, but was paroled after serving three for “good behavior.” Markelov called his release “illegal” and fought to keep the defrocked colonel behind bars. Budanov walked nevertheless. Now he has his revenge.
The Russian news coverage has been extensive. Reactions have been quick. More will certainly be forthcoming in the days ahead. Suffice to say that the murders prove that Medvedev’s “legalistic” Russia is no safer for human rights workers, lawyers, or journalists than Putin’s Russia. Hopefully, Medvedev won’t make the same mistake his mentor did by keeping silent after the Politkovskaya murder. All international eyes will be focused on Russia waiting for any gesture of recognition on the part of the President. For as Sergei Mitrokhin, the leader of Yabloko, stated that “This crime shows that political murder remains a determinant in Russian society.” Unfortunately, he’s right.
Here is Russia Today‘s report:Post Views: 474
The world is reacting to the murder of Memorial activist Natalia Estemirova. Already a universal consensus has formed as to who is responsible: Ramzan Kadyrov. Everyone seems to be taking their cue from Oleg Orlov, the chairman of Memorial. “I know, I am sure of it, who is guilty for the murder of Natalia. His name is Ramzan Kadyrov,” Orlov said in a statement on Memorial’s site. Orlov accusation stems from a personal confrontation Estemirova had with Kadyrov when he fired her as head of Grozny’s Public Council. “Yes, I am up to my elbows in blood,” Kadyrov allegedly told Estemirova. “And I am not ashamed of it. I have killed and will kill bad people. We are fighting against the republic’s enemies.” Orlov claims that “these words, and further relations with her, were made with offensive language that I am not prepared to repeat, were threats. Therefore, I have no doubt that people subservient to Razman Kadyrov masterminded Estermirova’s murder, who carried out murder, violence and lawlessness in Russia and beyond Russia as well.”
Whether Kadyrov is behind the murder or not is difficult to say with any certainty. However, Orlov doesn’t appear to be accusing Kadyrov of murdering Estemirova directly. He’s blaming Kadyrov for the situation that made her killing possible. Nevertheless, many emphasize that the one thing working against Kadyrov is that Estemirova is the fourth of his opponents killed since 2006: Anna Politkovskaya, Movladi Baisarov, and Ruslan Yamadaev. Not to mention a slew of other Chechen exiles, former militants, and would be challengers. Too much of a coincidence? No says Lev Ponamaryov who made this emphatic statement to the Financial Times in regard to the Kadyrov question:
“When they kill three people in a row in a short space of time who worked on the same subject, then all questions disappear,” he said. “Politkovskaya, Markelov and now Estemirova, they were all investigating abuses by law enforcement and the killings of peaceful citizens in Chechnya – and all these people have been killed . . . It is absolutely clear.”
Kadyrov has responded to these allegations. His press service released this statement to RIA Novosti:
“I am certain that you should think about my rights before you announce to the world that I am guilty of Estemirova’s death,” the former boxer said.
The Chechnya Segodnya news agency reported that Orlov had replied that he had not accused Kadyrov personally of her death, but had meant that, as president, he was responsible for crime in the republic, which saw two brutal separatist wars in the 1990s and early 2000s.
“These criminals are being sought by the whole Chechen Republic,” Kadyrov went on. “A defenseless, innocent woman has been killed. We will do everything to shed light on this.”
Kadyrov told journalists on Wednesday evening that “a search for the criminals will be carried out not only during an official investigation, but also unofficially, according to Chechen traditions.” He did not give further details.
Kadyrov’s lawyers are now preparing a lawsuit against Memorial in response to Orlov’s accusations.
Even if Kadyrov isn’t the culprit behind of all of these abductions, tortures, and killings, it doesn’t bode well for Chechnya or neighboring Dagestan and Ingushetia. Nor Russia for that matter. President Medvedev may express outrage over Estemirova’s murder and call accusations against Kadyrov “unacceptable,” but the truth of the matter is that its been only three months since he announced the end of operations in Chechnya, yet low level violence in the region continues unabated. What is clear to analysts is that Moscow’s control over the North Caucasus is at a minimum. And the more Moscow pushes, the more tense the situation becomes on the ground. As Valery Dzutsev explains in regard to Ingushetia,
Moscow’s policy in the region has led increasingly to direct rule from Moscow over Ingushetia, which so far has yielded largely negative results. Local presidential elections were abolished; the Russian security services acted without much consultation with the local authorities; important political issues on the ground, like the issue of contentious Prigorodny region, were ignored. These moves have led to a situation in which the local elites have virtually ceased to have any stake in a stable situation in Ingushetia. Appointing the current political regime in Ingushetia already constitutes de facto direct rule from Moscow, but rule from the federal center will further alienate the local elites and decrease their willingness to maintain order and stability in the republic.
None of this exactly explains who was behind Estemirova’s murder. It does give an impression of the context in which it occurred.
And what of the Russian media? What are they saying about Estemirova’s murder? I don’t know if the story was on the front page of Russia’s dailies, but judging from the number of articles on the internet, it is hard to say that “coverage of the murder in Russia was muted,” as the Financial Times suggests. But the debate isn’t so much about Estemirova, but what the murder says about the wider situation in the region.
Nezavisimaya gazeta, for example, posits a number of questions about why nothing has been done to quell an increasingly violent situation in the region.
On the whole human rights activists accuse the [Chechen] government, and the government blame fighters who murdered Estemirova to destabilize the situation in the republic and overthrow Ramzan Kadyrov. In the meantime, a number of diverse questions arise from the situation.
Why didn’t security organs in Chechnya respond sooner to facts Estermirova provided about abduction and the murder of people? Why only after the abduction and brutal murder of Esterimova were the best investigators from Moscow dispatched to Chechnya and Ingushetia in order to begin an investigation of the following vociferous crimes? Did Moscow really believe the assuring claims of the Chechen government that in the republic “is more secure that any other region in the country”? If they did believe this, that means they didn’t have the situation under control because briefs about a variety of emergency incidents in the republic were regular. If they didn’t believe them, then why did they not undertake the appropriate measures?
. . .
Human rights activists are not the only ones speaking about how there is no democracy, an absence of civil society, and elements of authoritarianism in the Russian Caucasus, but also state officials. They say, who will dare risk their life to stand against a system of lawlessness that exists in the North Caucasus? Perhaps it is better for our government to not contest similar statements today, but to concretely prove to opponents that the government has control over the situation in Russia’s south. And if there isn’t control, then this must honestly be recognized. And have society, experts, and maybe even (restrain our pride) have international human rights organizations openly debate on how to fix the situation.
Moskovskii komsomolets‘ Vadim Rechkalov thinks that while Kadyrov appeared ebullient after the death of Sulim Yamadayev, Estemirova’s death might “might mark the end of his career.” However, he is under no illusions: “Kadyrov will remain the president as long as the Kremlin permits it. If he is to be sacked, it is not going to happen because of anything exposed by the human rights community.”
This brings up the question of how long the Kremlin will tolerate Kadyrov. Rechkalov argues that the Chechen hetman might already be losing his clout.
The president of Chechnya is clearly losing his clout. The counter-terrorism operation regime was lifted, but the promised economic freedoms never materialized. Gunmen in the meantime grew noticeably more active. Clashes with the police and attacks from ambush are reported practically every day. Kadyrov proclaimed gunman ringleader Doku Umarov dead a month ago and said that the splinter groups still in the mountains couldn’t number more than 70 gunmen. He was wrong. Umarov is alive and there must be many more gunmen than 70, if the scope of their operations in the Caucasus is any indication. Plus the latest outrage – assassination of a prominent human rights activist the Western community is already pestering Moscow about. Showing the Kremlin (and the world) that Kadyrov is not in control was clearly one of the criminals’ objectives.
Therefore, it might be better to resist the clamor that Kadyrov is directly responsible for Estemirova’s murder. Because clearly, Kadyrov is more a symptom of a much wider disease that plagues the region and Russia in general.Post Views: 510