The murder of lawyer Stanislav Markelov is most likely connected with his professional activity. The lawyer was murdered in broad daylight in the center of Moscow, soon after the end of the press conference devoted to the notorious case of Colonel Yury Budanov (read article). The general public believed that the legal expert was murdered by neo-Nazis, who took revenge on the lawyer of the Chechen family.
The crime was committed demonstratively, soon after the end of the press conference, which was titled “Budanov’s Illegal Release from the Colony.” Stanislav Markelov was killed in public, and his murder is most likely linked with the case of Colonel Budanov (article), in which Markelov was defending the family of the Chechen woman, whom Budanov supposedly kidnapped and killed.
The lawyer tried to oppose the early release of the former colonel. “Budanov remains a dangerous criminal, since the Kungayevs still receive many threats on his behalf,” the lawyer used to say.
Markelov also received a number of threats from anonymous individuals. A group of skinheads attacked the lawyer in April 2004 in a train of the Moscow metro, Gazeta.ru reports. They beat up the lawyer, took away his documents and said that he deserved that for what he was doing.
Colonel Budanov’s case received an extensive media coverage in Russia . Budanov was found guilty in the summer of 2003.
Visa Kungayev, the father of Elza Kungayev, a Chechen woman, whom Budanov murdered, told Rosbalt of a telephone conversation, which he had with Stanislav Markelov last week. “He told me that Budanov’s followers were threatening him. They promised to kill Markelov if he continued to participate in the Budanov case. I was forced to leave Russia because of such threats too,” Visa Kungayev, who currently resides in Norway , said.
“I am certain that the crime is connected with the Budanov case. He was released on January 15, and my lawyer was murdered three days later. I believe that Budanov must be jailed urgently again now,” Visa Kungayev concluded.
We have to point out several strange details connected with Stanislav Markelov’s participation in the Budanov case. The little-known 28-year-old lawyer became involved in the trial in May 2002.
The relatives of Elza Kungayev (the victim) repeatedly demanded the lawyer be withdrawn from the process. One of such episodes had a scandalous ending at the end of 2002. Markelov said that he was giving up his powers of the defense attorney claiming that he did not see any practical use of his participation in the process.
Stanislav Markelov did not leave the process eventually. If he had decided to quit, a new defense lawyer would have had to read 20 volumes of the criminal case. Yury Budanov’s lawyer, Aleksei Dulimov, said that the lawyers of the victim party were deliberately dragging out the trial.
On the other hand, Stanislav Markelov’s career was not limited to the Budanov case. Markelov was one of the first lawyers in Russia who processed terrorism-related cases. He represented the interests of the victims of the hostage crisis at the Moscow music theater in 2002. He was also involved in landmark social and labor conflicts in Russia (the conflict between independent trade unions and the Russian Railways administration), defended the interests of anti-fascists who suffered from skinheads’ attacks, etc.
Many of those cases could become the reason for his assassination. It was particularly said that Markelov was collecting incriminating evidence against the Moscow government.
It is not ruled out, of course, that the lawyer was killed by neo-Nazis. However, the assassin committed the crime in an absolutely cold-blooded manner. He shot two people in a crowded street dead and just walked towards the metro station. It brings up the idea that he was a professional, not a brassbound fanatic, who executed the sentence of some nationalist group.
The lawyer’s murder could also be a purely political provocation. Makrlov was on friendly terms with all Russian oppositionist political camps.
“He was defending the left, the communists, the liberals, the mavericks – he was defending everyone who was in need of defense,” Daria Mitina, the chairwoman of the Left Front wrote.
“The Russian opposition has suffered a great loss. I have no doubts that this murder is just another murder amid many other recent attacks against civil activists,” Just Russia deputy Ilya Ponomarev wrote in his online diary.
“Human rights activists, members of youth movements and just passers-by brought flowers to the site where the lawyer was killed. All of them say that it was a political murder,” Svoboda radio station said.
Stanislav Markelov’s death is already being used for political goals.