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The "Index On Censorship blog" has a translation of a piece written by Yelena Milashina, and originally published in "Novaya gazeta," on this week's murders of prominent lawyer Stanislav Markelov and journalist Anastasia Baburova. It's a sobering read:

In essence, Stanislav and Anastasiya were simply decent people who could not tolerate what the majority in our country has accepted. That was enough for the lords and masters of Russia to issue their verdict, for those who are allowed to kill in our country.

These were the latest killings of those who did not fit within the present system. A 34-year-old lawyer who defended Chechens against Russia’s military, and defended Russia’s soldiers from their corrupt commanders. He spoke out against the neo-Nazis who are supported by the regime and defended Russia’s anti-fascists whom the regime sends to prison. Markelov defended journalists and rights activists and was himself a defender of human rights. As a consequence in the elite milieu of the capital’s attorneys he was regarded as an outsider.

25-year-old Nastya Baburova was also a romantic rebel, an anarchist who took part in the anti-fascist movement and the dissenters’ marches.

It was no accident that she found herself in such company: she quite consciously chose that path in life. In the eyes of the regime and ordinary people, who only want to keep out of trouble and quietly survive the present regime, Nastya’s choice also made her an outsider. Therefore few people in our country could die as she did, struggling to apprehend the assassin. In the office in front of which Stas and Nastya were shot people heard gunfire and even understood immediately what had happened. They were afraid to go out, however, or even to glance through the window.

The motive behind Markelov’s murder could be found in almost any of his cases. These include that of Budanov. Stanislav Markelov was demanding that new charges be brought against ex-colonel Budanov, just released on parole, for the rape of Elza Kungayeva. The chances of success were quite high since the details of the rape that preceded her 2000 murder by Budanov are recorded in the case materials....

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. Those today who are fearful are the people who keep out of trouble, trying to survive these bad times, when the bad times (for some reason) never seem to end.

-- Luke Allnutt

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