Suspect Confesses to Murder of Russian Lawyer

Suspect in Markelov Murder. Source: psdp.ruInvestigators have solved the murders of a lawyer and a journalist that took place last January in Moscow, according to Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) Director Aleksandr Bortnikov.

In his brief to Russian President Dmitri Medvedev, Bortnikov said that suspects Yevgeniya Khasis and Nikita Tikhonov were detained as a result of police infiltration of a “radical organization.” Khasis then admitted to the murder of lawyer Stanislav Markelov and journalist Anastasia Baburova.

Khasis, born 1985, is now being guarded in detention ahead of trial. She and Tikhonov, born 1980, are allegedly former members of the radical nationalist organization Russian National Unity. Police say they have confiscated a large quantity of weapons and that the suspects had planned to commit yet another “resonant” murder.

Reports began appearing in the Russian media several weeks prior to the FSB statement that murder suspects had possibly been detained. The media had named the motive for the crime as retaliation on the part of nationalists for Markelov’s involvement in the murder case of anti-fascist Aleksandr Ryukhin.

Ryukhin, who was 19 at the time of his killing, was knifed down by a group of six nationalists in 2006. Only three of the six were sentenced, and Markelov had repeatedly named Tikhonov as another possible suspect. Investigators said Tikhonov had been a member of the notorious ultranationalist organization United Brigade-88 and was a close friend to Khasis. Khasis herself had allegedly been a member of various nationalist groups since she was 16.

According to Aleksandr Belov, leader of the Movement Against Illegal Immigration, Tikhonov had worked as a speech writer for Boris Gryzlov. Gryzlov at the time had been chief of Russian police and Russia’s Interior Minister, and is currently Speaker of the State Duma and a leader of Putin’s United Russia party. Belov says that Tikhonov had “disappeared somewhere” in 2006.

Investigators had originally suspected Markelov’s murder to be motivated his involvement in the case of a girl killed by a Russian colonel in Chechnya.

An anonymous source told that Tikhonov and Khasis were likely arrested long prior to the officially cited dates of November 3 and 4, and that the media deliberately waited until after yesterday’s massive nationalist demonstrations to release the information.

Stanislav Markelov was shot in the head with a pistol in central Moscow on January 19 of this year. He died at the scene. Novaya Gazeta journalist Anastasia Baburova, who was walking with Markelov, was also shot, and died the same day in the hospital.

Novaya Gazeta Editor-in-Chief Sergei Sokolov was careful in his reaction to the FSB Director’s announcement. “I would beware of talking about a full exposure of this crime. If you bring to mind other different notorious murders – frequently after the announcement of their exposures, they don’t hold up in practice.”