January 28, 2009

Mr. Dmitry Medvedev
President of the Russian Federation
Kremlin
Moscow, Russia
Fax: + 7 095 206 5173/ 230 2408
Email: president@gov.ru

Mr. Chaika Yuri Yakovlevich
Prosecutor General of the Russian Federation
Ishaya Dmitrovka, 15a GSP 3
Moscow 125993
Russia
Fax: + 7 095 292 88 48

Your Excellencies,

On behalf of the 3,300 members of PEN American Center, an international organization of writers dedicated to protecting freedom of expression wherever it is threatened, we are writing to express our shock regarding the murder of lawyer Stanislav Markelov and journalist Anastasiya Baburova.

According to our information, Stanislav Markelov, a human rights lawyer who worked for the newspaper Novaya Gazeta and represented journalist Anna Politkovskaya until her assassination in 2006, was shot dead in Moscow while leaving a press conference at the Independent Press Center on January 20, 2009. Several hours before, Mr. Markelov had issued a statement protesting the early release of a Russian army officer, Yuri Budanov, who had been convicted in 2003 for the murder of a Chechen girl, Elza Kungayeva. Mr. Markelov had stated three days earlier that he intended to launch an investigation into who had authorized Mr. Budanov’s release, stating that “I understand now that there is no rule of law” in Russia.

Anastasiya Baburova, who joined the journalistic staff of Novaya Gazeta in October 2008, was accompanying Mr. Markelov at the time of the murder. She was reportedly shot in the head while attempting to apprehend the assassin, and later died of her injuries. It remains unclear as to whether she was a target, or whether she was a victim of her courageous action. Ms. Baburova had been researching neo-Nazism and race-motivated crimes in Russia for Novaya Gazeta. She is the fourth journalist from the newspaper to be murdered since 2000.

PEN American Center is seriously concerned that the murders of Stanislav Markelov and Anastasiya Baburova represent a trend in which independent journalists who cover human rights abuses in Chechnya are under great threat in Russia. We unequivocally call for a full and impartial investigation into the murders, bringing those responsible for carrying out and ordering the killing to justice. We also strongly urge Russian authorities to unequivocally condemn all attacks on the independent press and to take urgent measures to ensure the safety of journalists.

Thank you for your attention to this matter.

Sincerely,

Hannah Pakula
Chair, Freedom to Write Committee   

Larry Siems
Director, Freedom to Write and International Programs

CC: H. E. Yuriy V. Ushakov
Ambassador of the Russian Federation to the U.S.
2650 Wisconsin Avenue,
NW Washington, DC 20007
Fax: (202) 298-5735

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