Russia: Well-known lawyer, Stanislav Markelov, gunned down in cold blood

Principled anti-fascist campaigner and advocate

On 19 January, in the middle of the day in the centre of Moscow, advocate Stanislav Markelov, a well known lawyer, was gunned down by a masked gunman, as he was leaving a press conference. A young journalist, Anastasiya Baburova, who had already gained a reputation for her anti-fascist reporting, later died from head wounds received when she tried to protect Stanislav. Stanislav was an exception to many of his generation. In the mid 1990s he was active in LAS, the Russian section of Youth against Racism in Europe (YRE), which was initiated by the CWI. Markelov was first and foremost a political activist, who used his training as a lawyer for the benefit of the movement. Unlike many of his colleagues, Markelov put his principles, while others ditched their principles to further their careers.

Markelov gained a well earned reputation as an advocate, prepared to speak out against injustice in any form. The press conference he was leaving when he was shot dead concerned the case of former Russian Colonel, Yuri Budanov. During the Chechen war, this thug in uniform kidnapped a teenage girl, Elza Kungaeva and tortured, raped and brutally murdered her. Notwithstanding the support Budanov gained from the tops of the army and state, and the fact that he was made into a “hero” by the nationalist and far-right movements, including the Orthodox Church, Budanov’s behavior proved unacceptable to the court and he was jailed. Clearly after an order from above, Budanov was released this week, for “good behaviour”. Stanislav represented Elza’s family in court, in an attempt to prevent the early release of Budanov. Significantly, Stanislav’s murder provoked a protest demonstration of over a thousand people in Chechnya.

Stanilav also acted on behalf of Mikhail Beketov, well know as an opposition journalist in one of Moscow’s suburbs, who published revelations about the corruption of city bureaucrats concerning the road building and construction programmes. After numerous threats, Beketov was brutally beaten, last November, in another case that has gained notoriety. Makelov also defended anti-fascist youths in court and acted against fascists. Unfortunately, the wave of fascist killings of immigrants and opposition youth appears to be gathering pace.

Makelov didn’t loose faith. He wrote:

“We should understand well that apart from ourselves, there is no-one who will simply defend us. Not God, not a tsar, not the law. Nobody. Only we ourselves. And when we stand together, shoulder to shoulder; when we defend each other, then we will move forward.”