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Nikita Tikhonov and Yevgenia Khasis in a Moscow courtroom last month
MOSCOW -- A witness has testified in a high-profile murder trial in Moscow that she saw one of the defendants at the site of the double killing, RFE/RL's Russian Service reports.

Nikita Tikhonov and his partner Yevgenia Khasis went on trial last week over the killings of lawyer Stanislav Markelov and journalist Anastasia Baburova, who were shot dead in January 2009.

Both have pleaded not guilty.

Witness Larisa Yermakova testified today that she saw Tikhonov several seconds after she heard the shots that apparently killed Markelov and Baburova.

Yermakova said she did not see the actual killing, but she said she heard some shots and then saw a man she identified as Tikhonov run past her in the street.

Yermakova is the second witness to place Tikhonov at the site where Markelov and Baburova were shot.

Khasis told the court earlier that she will testify at the end of the trial.

She also said that Tikhonov was framed by officials "so that the truth about Markelov's murder will be buried once and for all time."

Markelov was involved in defending victims of arbitrary police violence in the North Caucasus. He and Baburova were gunned down in downtown Moscow in broad daylight.

Tikhonov is an active member of an ultranationalist group.

Marches were held in several Russian cities on January 19 to mark the second anniversary of the killings.

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Robert Kocharian was president from 1998 to 2008.
YEREVAN -- A pro-opposition Armenian newspaper has offered to settle a libel lawsuit filed by former President Robert Kocharian's family over reports implicating it in large-scale business activities, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reports.

In a series of articles published in September, the daily "Zhamanak" claimed that Kocharian was involved in lucrative imports of pharmaceuticals and owns a chain of drugstores through his wife, Bella.

Citing an unnamed source, it also alleged that Kocharian's eldest son, Sedrak, had purchased a diamond mine in India.

The former president's spokesman and legal counsel said Kocharian and his family members dismissed the reports as libelous. They sued the paper for defamation of character, demanding 6 million drams ($16,700) in compensatory damages.

A "Zhamanak" lawyer, Nikolay Baghdasarian, told a Yerevan court on February 25 that the paper was ready to run a retraction prepared by the plaintiff.

"If they present a reasonable text that doesn't violate the rights of third parties, we will be ready to print it," Baghdasarian said.

The court gave the Kocharian family 12 days to consider the settlement offer.

A spokesman for the ex-president, Victor Soghomonian, told RFE/RL that the family had not yet made a decision on the offer.

The newspaper has already published retractions, sent by the Kocharian family in October, along with its own "explanatory" comments attached to them. It says the family was angered by the background notes.

Baghdasarian said he therefore thought the Kocharian family was unlikely to settle the suit. "We just want to prove that they don't want to refute anything and are pursuing other goals," he told RFE/RL.

Arman Babajanian, the "Zhamanak" editor who was jailed for draft evasion during Kocharian's rule and spent more than three years in prison, earlier denounced the legal action as an "attack on free speech," and that the former president wanted to bankrupt his publication with such lawsuits.

Kocharian was president from 1998 to 2008.

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"Watchdog" is a blog with a singular mission -- to monitor the latest developments concerning human rights, civil society, and press freedom. We'll pay particular attention to reports concerning countries in RFE/RL's broadcast region.

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