Leads on Markelov Case Cold

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A definitive narrative is forming in the Russian mainstream press about the Markelov-Baburova murders.  This narrative says that it is unlikely that Colonel Yuriy Budanov has any connection to the murder because he has the most to lose. In fact, the quick finger pointing at Budanov is exactly what those crafty killers want us to do! As Aleksandr Kots writes in Komsomolka:

It would be no surprise if the real murderers were actually counting on this reaction. Their aim was probably not so much the man’s death as the uproar that would follow. And there is no doubt that this crime will draw as wide a reaction as the murder of journalist Anna Politkovskaya — it was staged too “successfully” and professionally. “Russia releases a war criminal who, upon gaining his freedom, starts taking revenge,” they will begin to say in the West. “Here is the true demonic face of the Russian authorities,” fugitive extremists and oligarchs of (exiled businessman Boris) Berezovsky’s caliber will chime in. “We did warn you!” And within Russia there will be a great torrent of accusations from human rights activists of every stripe, driving yet another wedge between the Caucasus and the rest of Russia to the beat of an invisible conductor’s baton.

Isn’t this the same line of reasoning the authorities gave for the Litvinenko and Politkovskaya murders? That the political murders were carried out by some nefarious force with the hopes of damaging Russia good name?  Now I’m not saying that Kremlin Inc. (I’ll leave that to the Washington Post to make those insinuations) or that even Budanov is responsible (though I still think he is the logical prime suspect.  Still, one must acknowledge that Markelov had a long list of enemies.), but this excuse is getting a bit old.  In fact, it is a bit strange that the pro-Russia and Russophobic contingents appear to converge on the idea that there is a greater conspiracy behind every killing.

Another interesting addition to this narrative appears to be an effort to turn Baburova from collateral damage into a bona fide target of the killer. Kots throws out this theory:

As for slain journalist Anastasiya Baburova, she probably came under fire by chance, being next to the lawyer at that fateful moment. Incidentally, theories are already circulating that the hit men might also have been targeting (journalist) Yuliya Latynina, who not so long announced that she had received death threats. It is possible that the perpetrators mistook the young girl for the famous journalist, to whom she bears a certain resemblance…

Do we really need to feed Latynina’s paranoid narcissism? I hope that this nonsense doesn’t gain any traction beyond blurting out theories. Talk about feeding the beast.  Just wait until the Western media gets a hold of that one. Especially since tying all of Russia’s political murders into a singular, nicely knotted narrative is already in the air . . .

Stanislav Markelov was buried yesterday at the Ostankinskii cemetery in Moscow. Around 200 people attended the jurists funeral in silence. There were no eulogies or speeches at the request of Markelov’s brother Mikhail.  After the funeral Henry Reznik, the president of the Moscow Lawyers’ Guild, said a few words to reporters on behalf of his colleagues.  “It’s clear that this is revenge. This crime is not against an individual and not against lawyers.  It is against the state.  This is an insolent demonstration of murder that occurred two steps from the Kremlin.”  Indeed an attack on a Russian lawyer is also a strike against the legal system at large.

Several friends and colleagues gathered to bid farewell to Anastasia Baburova.  Her parents arrived in Moscow to claim her body. She will be buried in her native Sevastopol.

Despite these solemn tributes to Markelov and Baburova, the politics of their memory has inflamed emotions, especially among Russia’s anarchist/anti-fascist community.  Police detained 30 out of the 300 mostly anti-fascist youths who marched in an unsanctioned protest through the center of Moscow.  A few anarchists smashed some shop windows and bashed escalator lamps as they fled into the metro. The outrage is apparent in this marcher’s response to those shocked by the “violence”

Honestly, I could not get my head around why they were so obsessed with those windows and bits of plastic, which at most are worth one thousandth of a commercial bank’s daily profits, when two very good people had been murdered and these people weren’t even strangers to the marchers.

Police halted a more subdued march in St. Petersburg.   In Novosibirsk, a group of anarchists were attacked by a group of skinheads armed with “wooden clubs.”  Chto Delat has more on antifa protesters confrontations with police.

Finally the murders have brought of another issue: whether journalists (and lawyers for that matter) should carry arms to protect themselves. Alexander Lebedev thinks so. The owner of Novaya gazeta (and now the new owner of the London Evening Standard which he purchased a 75,1 percent stake for £1) called on his reporters to carry guns. “The authorities don’t take seriously their responsibilities for the safety of Novaya Gazeta staff,” said Lebedev. “If the FSB is unable to guarantee the protection and safety of our journalists, we will try to defend them ourselves.”  In an interview with Ekho Moskvy, Lebedev expanded on his reasoning.

“You tell me. … We have three options. The first one–to leave and turn off the lights … The second–to stop working. In other words, to stop writing about the special services, corruption, drugs, construction, fascists; to stop investigating the crimes of the powerful structures. Just to stop working! … The third option is to somehow defend ourselves. The state cannot defend us. It just cannot! It has gigantic defense budgets, a huge number of agencies. But, in general, it is busy doing its own business.”

Indeed, Novaya especially has suffered “war-like casulties” over the last few years.  Baburova is the fourth Novaya jounralist (the others being Igor Domnikov, Yuri Shchekochikhin, and Anna Politkovskaya) to suffer a violent death since 2001.  Unsuprisingly, the police shot down this idea saying “the more guns, the more disorder.”

In regard to who might have caused the latest incident of disorder, the trail is dead cold.  The police have little evidence to go on.  They have no witnesses who saw the killer. Images from security cameras don’t reveal the his face (he was wearing a ski mask anyway) but investigators are still working with the video. The killer didn’t even drop the gun which is characteristic of professional hits. The only hard evidence the police have are the bullets that downed Markelov and Baburova.

Given this, it already looks like these brazen killings are on track to becoming like other Russian political murders: unsolved.