Russia’s opposition Novaya Gazeta newspaper said on Wednesday it would pull its journalists out of Chechnya after a human rights activist and her husband were killed as part of a string of killings there.
In October 2006, the same paper’s investigative reporter Anna Politkovskaya, known for her scathing criticism of pro-Moscow Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov and the Kremlin, was shot dead near her apartment in central Moscow.
In the latest killings in the troubled Muslim republic, Zarema Sadulayeva, the kidnapped head of a children’s charity, and her husband Alik Dzhabrailov were found murdered in the boot of a car in Chechnya on Tuesday.
The attack came a month after leading Chechen rights activist Natalia Estemirova was kidnapped and murdered by unknown assailants, triggering international outrage.
“Do these massacres mean that a coordinated campaign to destroy human rights advocates has been launched in Chechnya?” Novaya Gazeta said in a statement posted on its website www.novayagazeta.ru.
“Following a number of international human rights bodies and charities, Novaya Gazeta has decided to suspend the activity of its journalists covering events in Chechnya,” it added.
Novaya Gazeta editors declined any further comment.
While Politkovskaya’s murder remains unsolved, the United States and European Union have pressed the Kremlin to ensure the prosecution of her killers.
Rights group Memorial says Kadyrov is behind much of the violence in Chechnya and has accused him of ordering the July 15 killing of the activist Estemirova because of her strong criticism of his government. Kadyrov denied any involvement.
The government blames Islamic militants for a rise in attacks on security forces and local officials in Chechnya and neighbouring North Caucasus provinces in the past few months.
Reuters, 12 August 2009