News / Europe

Medvedev Says Killer of Human Rights Activist Identified

Russian President Dmitri Medvedev said Thursday that the killer of prominent human rights activist Natalya Estemirova has been identified, but the investigation into her 2009 death is ongoing.

Mr. Medvedev said the killer is on an international wanted list.

Estemirova's body was found in the North Caucasus republic of Ingushetia on July 15, 2009, just hours after she was kidnapped in neighboring Chechnya. Authorities said she had been shot in the head and chest.

Human rights activists noted Thursday that investigators have already named Alkhazur Bashayev, a Chechen rebel killed by Russian security forces in November 2009, as the killer.

The Interfax news agency quotes Oleg Orlov, who heads the rights organization, Memorial, as questioning how Bashayev could be on a wanted list if he is dead. Orlov said he was "deeply disappointed" by the theory that Bashayev killed Estemirova, calling it "very unlikely" but "very convenient" for the Russian authorities.

Orlov has alleged that Chechnya's pro-Moscow president, Ramzan Kadyrov, was responsible for Estemirova's murder by fostering an atmosphere of lawlessness and impunity in the republic.

The European Union on Thursday urged Russia to swiftly complete its investigation into Estemirova's murder.

EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton called on Moscow "to work towards putting an end to the climate of impunity and fear in the North Caucasus in general and Chechnya in particular."

Following Estemirova's murder, Mr. Medvedev ordered a top-level investigation into the killing. He and other Russian leaders condemned the act, along with the European Union and Human Rights Watch.

Estemirova had collected evidence of kidnappings, torture and killings in Chechnya since the start of the second separatist war there in 1999. Chechen authorities were highly critical of her work.

She worked closely in Chechnya with Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya, another Kremlin critic who was murdered in Moscow in 2006.

In 2007, Estemirova was awarded the first annual Anna Politkovskaya Award, in honor of her colleague and friend. The prize was created by the group, Reach All Women In War, with the support of female laureates of the Nobel Peace Prize.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP.

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