on a Loss – January 2009

On January 19th the Russian activist and human rights community (and the worldwide one) suffered the loss of lawyer Stanislav “Stas” Markelov and critical journalist Anastasia “Skat” Baburova who were murdered in cold blood in the center of Moscow. This assassination received wide coverage in both Russian and international press however almost all of it focused on Markelov’s contribution to human rights advocacy and not to his and Anastasia’s incredibly significant activities and involvement in the activist community. We belatedly want to mention this loss. On a loss…


* Stanislav Markelov

* Anastasia Barburova

* Further articles

* Memorial and Solidarity Actions

Stanislav Markelov was shot in the head on the afternoon of January 19th in the center of Moscow (near the Kremlin) right after holding a press conference on… He was an internationally known human rights lawyer, but also actively defended the Russian antifascist and activist movement and was involved in regional actions, especially environmentally related ones.

Stas, as he was generally known, had friends in many fractions and Russian movements and eventually became the first lawyer to defend left-wing “terrorists”, accused by the new Russian state. In all the cases he tried during 1990’s and early years of this decade, he managed to dismiss terrorist charges and, eventually, even if defendants got sentenced, they got sentenced for lesser charges.

As a young student in the early 1990’s, Stas became an activist in the social-democratic party (rather marginal in Russian politics), in its left wing, and as the years progressed he became more active. In 1996 Stas participated in the Rainbow Keeper protest camp in Volgodonsk, against the construction of the nuclear power plant of the Rostov region. This camp suffered some heavy confrontation when soldiers from the local army base were ordered to evict and shoot at tents, and as a consequence Stas offered his legal support to activists against the excesses of authorities.

Stas was also one of the organisers of 1998 anti-nuclear march in Belarus, and was a regular participant in the annual Tchernobyl day marches in Minsk, which are currently some of the biggest anti-nuclear demonstrations in Europe. Stas was also actively involved in giving legal and other support to the Belarusian democratic movement since the violent anti-Lukashenko protests of the mid-90’s.

In the summer of 2008 he also joined Rainbow Keeper protest camp in Sasovo in the Ryazan region against toxic resin factory.

Stas was involved in wide spectrum of activities, but he became famous as a lawyer. From early on, he took cases which no-one else was willing to take, and always picked up a hard, political and mediatic tactic of defense. Eventually he become Russia’s number one celebrity human rights lawyer, a common guest of TV talk shows on most various topics, to argue against Russia’s WTO membership for example.

Two of, perhaps, the most important cases he took up were connected with war in Chechnya, but Stas became interested on the problems of Caucasus much before. Already, in 1994 he had traveled to the area ravaged by ethnic conflict between Ossetians and Ingushetians with Memorial activists. One of his companions from thet trip, Alexander Cherkasov, also wrote an excellet necrology of Stas which is available in English at http://chtodelat.wordpress.com/2009/01/20/stanislav-markelov-on-the-frontlines/

Eventually Stas took on defending the interests of the families of victims of two of the most notorious Russian war criminals.

Stas was currently appealing against the early release of Colonel Budanov, and at the time he was assassinated he was returning from the press conference he had held announcing his intention to question this release in the European courts. Budanov, who in March 2000 kidnapped and raped a 18-year old Chechen girl (and did many other atrocities, for which he was never punished) had received a 10 year prison sentence but had been released recently having served only 8.5 years.

Another important case Stas took up was that of of Sergey “Kadet” Lapin, who together with other officers of Hanty-Mansiysk OMON organised the torture and murder factory in the Chechenyan capital Grozniy. Eventually “Kadet” was convicted to 9 years of jail “for exceeding official authority and causing grave bodily injury with aggravating circumstances”. Although only a fraction of his deeds made it to court and all other suspected went underground or avoided charges altogether, it was still an unprecendent court result.

Stas’s human rights related legal work is well published and documented in the mainstream media and a list of his high-profile case is available on his own website at :

What is important to remember, however, is that no matter how famous he became Stas was always ready to take up the cases of many russian activists, even ones that weren’t political. He did not work for free but understood the financial problems that activists face and did not ask for guarantees. Stas was the most important lawyer of the Russian animal rights movement. He was involved in both some animal liberation cases as well as doing some legal work from “within the system” reviewing the law “On animal protection.” He was also the most important lawyer of the anti-fascist movement in Russia, defneding anti-fascists both when they were victims as well as when they were suspected to be perpetrators.

It is impossible to cover all the work Stas did nor the person that he was. His sense of humor and endless jokes were his way of coping with the many dangers and threats he faced, laughing at them in their face.

[This text was adapted from a longer one published at: http://avtonom.org/index.php?nid=2245]

Anastasia “Skat” Baburova, 30.11.1983-19.01.2009

On the 19th of January after having watched Stanislav Markelov murdered Anastasia “Skat” Baburova attempted to arrest the assassin and was shot in the head as well, dying a few hours later in the hospital.

Nastya was studying the evening module in the journalism faculty of Moscow State University. She worked for a while at the Russian daily newspaper “Novye Izvestiya”(published in Moscow), but left to work as a freelancer. During last few months of her life she wrote for the critical paper “Novaya Gazeta,” mostly about the situation with the far right in Russia.

Nastya was involved in anti-repression issues, such as solidarity actions in Moscow for repressed French activists Ivan and Bruno, and later last year with solidarity work for the Tarnac 9. Last year she was actively involved in attempts to defend a dormitory, in Yasniy Passage, inhabited by refugees from the conflict regions of Caucasus, against violent takeover of the premises by UFSIN (Administration  of Federal Service for Execution of Punishment, that is Russian federal prison administration). Nastya also joined the Rainbow Keepers’ protest camp in Sasovo, and the campaign against police brutality in spring of 2008 and was co-organising the alternative media section of the Russian conference Anticapitalism-2008.
[This text was adapted from one published at: http://avtonom.org/index.php?nid=2188]

Further articles:

Justice Moscow Style: The assassination of human rights lawyer Stanislav Markelov is a message to Russians: don’t count on the law


Anna Politkovskaya’s lawyer Stanislav Markelov shot dead in Moscow

A farewell to Anastasia

about the sasovo camp

Two political killings rock Russia

Solidarity Actions around the world

Memorial and solidarity actions started taking place soon after the two murders and February 1st was called on as a day of solidarity http://ikd.ru/node/8512

A large number of actions have taken place around Russia since the two killings. For those who read Russian http://russia.indymedia.org is a good resource with info, texts & photos documenting most of the actions.


We Won’t Forget, We Won’t Forgive


Demonstration in Gdansk


February 1st in Poland


Action in Germany