stanislav_markelov.jpgOne of Russia’s bravest and most highly regarded human rights lawyers, Stanislav Markelov, has been assassinated today by an unknown gunman at point blank range on Prechistenka Street in Moscow.  Anastasia Baburova, a woman accompanying Markelov, was also shot.  Among other high profile political cases, Markelov represented the family of Elza Kungayeva, and helped to push forward the successful prosecution and conviction of one of the worst human rights violators of the war in Chechnya, Colonel Yury Budanov.  In recent weeks, Markelov had been in the news as one of the strongest voices opposing the early parole of Budanov.

I am completely taken aback by the news of this brutal murder.  I knew Stanislav personally, considered him a friend and respected colleague.  I will have more information to share on this later, but for now, my thoughts and prayers are with his family.

We will be adding updates to this post throughout the evening.  For now, links to news coverage: Reuters, Russia Today, Associated Press, and RIA Novosti, cited below.

UPDATE #1: Coverage from the New York Times has just come online. This report indicates that the woman accompanying Markelov was a journalist who had published highly critical articles on the government’s Chechnya policies.  Markelov had just finished giving a news conference in which he announced the possibility of bringing international legal action against Budanov.

UPDATE #2: Luke Harding of the Guardian has filed his story, and the AP has updated their coverage with more information, which quotes Lev Ponomarev as saying “When one needed a bold journalist, one called Politkovskaya, when one needed a bold lawyer — one called Markelov.

UPDATE #3Novaya Gazeta has updated their coverage … translation here.

UPDATE #4The Moscow Times has filed its coverage, with further details on the press conference given before the murder. The event was titled “The Illegal Release of Budanov From Prison: the Ignorance of the Court and a Direct Benefit For Militants,” and the father of the victim accused Budanov of securing his bail thanks to “his influential friends.

The Telegraph has filed a story, not much info except for that the killer was wearing a balaclava style mask. Amnesty International has also posted a statement.

RIA Novosti:

“Lawyer Stanislav Markelov was killed near building No. 1 onPrechistenka Street. Documents bearing his name were found on thebody,” Anatoly Bagmet, an official with the Prosecutor General’soffice, told journalists.

Budanov, who commanded a tank regiment during the second militarycampaign in Chechnya, was convicted in the summer of 2003 of stranglingan 18-year-old Chechen woman three years earlier and was sentenced to10 years in jail. He was paroled earlier this month.

Elsa Kungayeva’s family had appealed against Budanov’s early release,but a court rejected their plea last Thursday just hours after theformer officer was released.

A source in the law enforcement bodies said earlier that Markelov wasshot dead from a gun with silencer at around 2 p.m. Moscow time (11:00GMT) near the Kropotkinskaya metro station in Moscow downtown.

“An assailant ran from behind to Markelov and a woman escorting him,Anastasia Baburova, and shot him in the back of the head frompoint-blank range. The woman tried to get hold of the suspect, but heshot her too,” the source said.

Police said earlier that one man was killed and two more seriously wounded after an unknown suspect opened fire on them.