[JURIST] Prominent Russian human rights lawyer, Stanislav Markelov, was shot dead by a masked gunman in Moscow on Monday. Markelov, known for his work on high profile human rights cases including representing journalist Anna Politkovskaya [BBC obituary; JURIST news archive], was protesting the early release of Colonel Yuri Budanov [Moscow Times report]. Anastasia Baburova, a journalist covering Markelov for the Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta [media website], also died after being shot in the head by the gunman. Markelov had argued against the release of Budanov, who was convicted of strangling a Chechen woman that he believed was a rebel sniper. Budanov speculated that the shooting was an attempt to increase tensions [RIA Novosti report] between Russians and Chechens. The release of Budanov sparked protest across Chechnya last week.
Between 1992 and 2006, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) reported that 42 journalists have been killed [JURIST report] in Russia. The high-profile case of Politkovskaya has increased exposure of the killings to an international audience. Politkovskaya, who also wrote for Novaya Gazeta, was covering the conflict between the Russian army and separatist forces in Chechnya. Politkovskaya was widely known for her stories about human rights abuses by Russian troops in Chechnya and was murdered [JURIST report] after returning to her Moscow apartment building in October 2006. Last June, Russian authorities officially charged [JURIST report] three men in the killing of Politkovskaya. The trial remains ongoing.