December 15, 2018

Press Freedom

Russian Federation

OPC Glimpses Hope in Russian Journalist’s Killers Sentencing

H.E. Dmitri Medvedev
President
Russian Federation
Fax:  (011.7.495) 206.6277 / 5173

H.E. Vladimir Putin
Prime Minister
Russian Federation
Fax: (011.7.495) 206.4622 / 205.4219

Your Excellencies:

We are gratified to learn of the stiff sentences for two people convicted of the double murder of Novaya Gazeta reporter, Anastasia Baburova, and human-rights lawyer, Stanislav Markelov. It is a sign of hope for our Russian colleagues that justice for crimes against foundational human rights — the right to know, the right to free expression — is not dead in Russia.

According to our sources, Nikita Tikhonov has been jailed for life in the killing of Markelov and Baburova more than two years ago.  As you will recall, the two were walking out of a Moscow press conference in January, 2009, when Tikhonov shot Markelov in the head before turning his gun on Baburova to make sure that she would never identify him.  Yevgeniya Khasis, Tikhonov’s girlfriend, has been sentenced to 18 years for acting as his accomplice.  According to testimony given to a jury at Moscow’s city court, the pair targeted Markelov because of his legal work in the prosecution of neo-Nazis.  The two are said to be involved with an ultra-right group called Russky Obraz.

We note that defense lawyers have announced their intention to appeal, which is their right, even as supporters of the verdict are suggesting that other accomplices have yet to be brought to justice.  Meanwhile, and ominously, the judge in the trial has reportedly been threatened by neo-Nazis.

We would like to share the optimism of Natalya Yudina of Sova Centre, a group that tracks nationalist aggression in Russia, who noted after the convictions of Tikhonov and Khasis that “in the last year there has been an increase in guilty verdicts for neo-Nazi hate crimes and we’ve seen a corresponding drop in the number of violent racist attacks.  Long sentences undoubtedly have an effect, and today’s court decision is one more step in the right direction.”

In the interests of Russian democracy, we hope that Natalya Yudina is right.  Around the world, everyone with an interest in human rights will be watching.

Respectfully yours,

Larry Martz
Jeremy Main
Kevin McDermott
Co-chairmen — Freedom of the Press Committee

cc:

H.E. Sergey V. Lavrov
Foreign Minister
Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Moscow  121200
Russian Federation
Fax: (011.7.495) 244.3448

H.E. Sergey I. Kislyak
Russian Ambassador to the U.S.A.
Embassy of the Russian Federation
2650 Wisconsin Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20007
Fax:  (202) 298.5735

Dmitri Peskov
First Deputy Spokesman of the President of the Russian Federation
c/o  Embassy of the Russian Federation
2650 Wisconsin Avenue, NW
Washington, DC  20007
Fax:  (202) 298-5735

Ambassador Vitaly Churkin
Permanent Representative
Permanent Mission of the Russian Federation to the United Nations
136 East 67th Street
New York, NY  10021
Fax: (212) 628.0252

H.E. John Beyrle
U.S. Ambassador to Russia
Embassy of the United States of America
8 Bolshoy Devyatinskiy
Pereulok
Moscow  121099
Russia
Fax:  (011.7.495) 728-5090

Andrey Vitalyevich Vasilyev
Editor-in-Chief
Kommersant Daily
4 Vrubelya Street
Moscow, Russia
kommersant@kommersant.ru

Aleksey K. Simonov
President
Glasnost Defense Foundation
4 Zubovskiy Boulevard, # 432
Moscow  119021
Russia
Fax: (011.7.495) 637.4947

Andrew McChesney
Editor-in-Chief
The Moscow Times
Ul. Polkovaya, 3, build. 1
Moscow  127018
Russia
mcchesney@imedia.ru

Maria Otero
Under Secretary of State for Democracy and Global Affairs
U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street, NW
Washington, D.C. 20520