On Tuesday and Wednesday, 3 and 4 November, the first suspects in the Markelov-Baburova murder case were arrested. The operation was shrouded in secrecy. Investigators had been hard at work, both among nationalist groups and the public as a whole, before the arrests were made.
The names of the suspects were officially released on 5 November: they are Yevgenia Khasis (born 1985) and Nikita Tikhonov (born 1980). That day the Investigations Committee at the Prosecutor General’s Office confirmed that the two had been charged with murder (Article 105.2 of the RF Criminal Code, “murder by a group of persons by prior agreement”).
From the outset the investigators’ most favoured interpretation was that Russian fascists, whom lawyer Stanislav Markelov and journalist Anastasia Baburova considered their sworn enemies, had been behind the shooting. Markelov was a defence attorney for anti-fascists. He monitored the crimes committed by Russia’s Nazis and passed the information that became known to him during his work to the law-enforcement agencies. Baburova wrote about the prosecution of fascists and was an active participant in the anti-fascist movement. Available information indicates that the two arrested suspects belong to one of Russia’s several Nazi groups.
It is too early to say that the crime has been solved. The guilt of the arrested is still to be proved. Other accomplices must be identified and, if he exists, so must the person who ordered the killing.
On Thursday, 5 November, the Basmanny district court in Moscow agreed to the demand of the prosecutor’s office that Tikhonov be remanded in custody. At the request of both the prosecutors and the suspect’s lawyer, Yevgeny Skripilyov, the hearing was closed to the public and the press. The prosecutors cited Article 241.2.1 (RF Criminal Procedural Code), which permits a hearing in camera if the examination of a criminal case could lead to the disclosure of State secrets or of other secrets that are protected by law. Making the same request for a closed hearing, attorney Skripilyov said he was guided by the interests of his client.
The investigators are indeed doing all the can to prevent any leak of information. As Tikhonov was led along the courthouse corridor his face was covered by a special hood and the prosecutor’s office told journalists no more than the suspect’s name. The second accused, Yevgenia Khasis, might also soon appear in court, said the prosecutors. Tikhonov’s lawyer refrained from comment, and would not say whether his client had indeed admitted his guilt.
The face of Yevgenia Khasis, the second suspect, when she was brought to court, was also carefully concealed. Before the hearing began Judge Mushnikova asked whether Khasis wanted to decline the services of the court-appointed lawyer.
“What do you mean?” queried Khasis.
When she was told her rights Khasis announced: “I don’t want a lawyer forced on me. I already have an attorney, whom I have hired. His name is Alexander Vasilyev.” Defence attorney Vasilyev is known to the public. He has defended Russia’s neo-Nazis in several dramatic cases. In particular, he represented Maxim Martsinkevich (“Tyosak”), the infamous leader of the Nazi “Format 18” group.
The court authorised the detention in custody of Yevgenia Khasis as well.
Zinaida Burskaya, Sergey Sokolov
Medvedev informed of the arrests
On 5 November the Russian president held a brief meeting with Alexander Bortnikov, head of the Federal Security Service (FSB), to which Novaya gazeta correspondent Ilya Kriger was invited.
The FSB had arrested members of a radical national group who probably murdered defence attorney Stanislav Markelov and journalist Anastasia Baburova on 19 January this year, Bortnikov told President Medvedev. The decision to detain them was taken, Bortnikov said, on 3 November. During the previous months of investigation a substantial amount of evidence had been gathered. Confessions and other incriminating materials had been obtained from the suspects. Detectives from the security services also seized large numbers of firearms.
Apart from the Markelov-Baburova killing, said Bortnikov, the FSB had uncovered another crime, committed by Russian neo-Nazis in September, and had prevented a further sensational crime that was in preparation. At present the Investigations Committee at the Prosecutor General’s Office was continuing to investigate the members of this nationalist group.
Dmitry Medvedev listened attentively to the FSB director’s report. The murder of Stanislav Markelov and Anastasia Baburova was not only a grave crime, noted the president, but “had caused wide public alarm”. The investigative work of the special services in relation to nationalist groupings must continue, he said.