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Murders of Lawyer, Journalist Slammed as 'Political Killings'

Published: January 23, 2009 (Issue # 1442)



  • Mourners hold photographs of Stanislav Markelov (l) and Anastasia Baburova in central St. Petersburg on Tuesday.
    Photo: Alexander Belenky / The St. Petersburg Times

More than 150 people gathered in central St. Petersburg on Tuesday to mourn lawyer Stanislav Markelov and journalist Anastasia Baburova, who were murdered in Moscow on Monday, and protest against political killings.

Markelov was known for taking on human rights cases and defending left-wing and anti-Nazi activists, while Baburova was also an anarchist and anti-Nazi activist, so a plan for mourners to gather by Bukvoyed book store on Ligovsky Prospekt was quickly hatched on leftist and activist e-mail and Internet forums late Monday, just hours after the two were murdered.

The site near the book store was chosen because anti-Nazi activist and musician Timur Kacharava was stabbed to death there by a group of neo-Nazis in 2005. Vigils are held there every Nov. 13 to commemorate the day Kacharava was killed.

From there, mourners planned to march to Marsovo Pole (the Field of Mars), the park where victims of the 1917 Russian revolutions and Civil War are buried, and hold a vigil near the eternal flame monument.

Although information about the event was distributed only via the Internet and word of mouth, dozens of mourners turned up, from young punks, anarchists and left-wing activists to older human rights activists and sympathizers.

By the announced time of 7 p.m. the police were already on the site, with several police vehicles parked next to Bukvoyed. Three young people were reportedly detained at an early point in the gathering.

People held flowers, candles and portraits of Markelov and Baburova at the site. But when the mourners tried to move toward Nevsky Prospekt, the city’s main street, at 7:25 p.m, they were blocked by policemen. A policeman with a megaphone warned the mourners that they were blocking the movement of pedestrians on Ligovsky Prospekt and demanded that they leave the site “one by one” and go home.

Some protesters replied that it was the police themselves who were blocking the movement of pedestrians. The policemen formed lines on both sides of the gathering, ready to act.

However, after 15 minutes of negotiations, mourners were allowed by a police colonel in command to walk along the side streets to Marsovo Pole rather than along Nevsky. They were allowed to carry flowers, but not candles or portraits. An estimated 65 people walked, accompanied by four police vehicles, to Marsovo Pole, while some used city buses to get to the site. Some activists distributed leaflets as they walked.

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