Anastasia Baburova's funeral service was held today. She was the 25-year-old journalist killed as she tried to defend Stanislav Markelov, a human rights lawyer, when a masked gunman shot him at point-blank range in broad daylight on a busy Moscow street this week.
The two had just emerged from a press conference, in which Markelov had said he would appeal the early release of the killer of a Chechen girl, raped and murdered by a Russian army colonel during the war in Chechnya. Moments later both were gunned down. The two were friends.
Many people attended the funeral, a lot of them students and young professionals. They carried red carnations and white roses and most of them stood weeping silently as one by one, her mother and father, her friends and colleagues, got up to say a few last words about their beloved daughter and companion.
Through his tears, her father, who works in a factory in Crimea (where Baburova grew up) remembered taking his daughter to kindergarten, and how she used to run ahead because she was so keen to get there and begin lessons.
"She studied so hard," he said, "and all she wanted was to be a journalist, a fair and even-handed journalist, who would be known throughout Russia and around the world."
In a miserable turn of events, Baburova's wish has come true, but for all the wrong reasons. A young and talented reporter, she wrote about racism and the almost daily attacks on ethnic minorities in Russia. Why, a colleague at the funeral said, on the day white Americans voted overwhelmingly for a black president, were four Uzbek migrant workers brutally beaten and killed in Moscow?
Returning from her funeral, I read the depressing news that "Novaya gazeta," the newspaper where Baburova worked, is calling for the right to arm its staff. Baburova was the fourth journalist from the newspaper to be killed on the job since 2000.
If law-enforcement agencies cannot protect our journalists, the management says, we want them to be allowed to protect themselves.
Sadder still is Baburova's blog, which she has been keeping sporadically for two years. Mostly, she rails against the injustice of a regime in which murders go unsolved and murderers unpunished. There's something depressingly portentous about what she writes.
But in her last entry, written on January 24, she writes that she has finally managed to give up smoking. "Free at last!" she writes. Two days later she was dead.
-- Chloe Arnold