Moscow: Russian police arrested 21 people on Wednesday at a Moscow memorial rally for a human rights lawyer who was shot in a brazen, broad-daylight killing near the Kremlin two years ago.
Hundreds of people attended the rally in memory of rights lawyer Stanislav Markelov and reporter Anastasiya Baburova, whose slayings caused outrage in Russian liberal circles and in the West.
During the after-dark vigil on a central square, people at the rally released Chinese lanterns into the air, holding candles and clutching portraits of Markelov and Baburova.
Police spokesman Anatoly Lastovetsky said on Wednesday that people wearing masks at the rally were detained as well as those who lit flares. He said they should only be held briefly.
Markelov, 34, an authoritative lawyer whose work had angered nationalists, and Baburova, 25, a journalist walking with him from a news conference, were shot in a central Moscow street by a masked gunman.
The trial of a man and a suspected female accomplice opens in Moscow next week.
Prosecutors accuse Nikita Tikhonov, 30, and his girlfriend Yevgeniya Khasis, 26, of killing Markelov because of his work as lawyer for hate crime victims. Tikhonov gunned down Baburova as the murder witness, the prosecutors say. Both Tikhonov and Khasis, known nationalists, deny the accusations.
Investigators say they found the murder weapon in Tikhonov`s apartment a few days before his arrest in November 2009.
Neither of the suspects have an alibi because they could not recall their actions on that day, Tikhonov`s lawyer, Alexander Vasilyev, said on Tuesday.
Russia has seen a string of contract-style killings of human rights advocates and journalists. Few are solved.