Moscow: A Russian court jailed a
nationalist for life on Friday for the brazen murder of human
rights lawyer Stanislav Markelov and reporter Anastasia
Baburova in what experts called a rare victory for the
embattled rights community.
The sentencing came after a jury last month found
Nikita Tikhonov, 30, guilty of the twin murders, and
co-accused Yevgenia Khasis, 25, his common-law wife, of
complicity in the crimes.
Khasis received 18 years in a penal colony.
The couple, who observed proceedings from inside a
glass cage, appeared largely unperturbed by the sentences.
Clutching Tikhonov`s forearm, Khasis flashed wide
smiles for television cameras and blew kisses to supporters in
the courtroom as her grim-faced boyfriend stood next to her,
national television broadcasts showed.
Tikhonov was found guilty of murdering Markelov, 34,
in broad daylight in central Moscow as he and journalist
Baburova, 25, walked to a metro station after a news
conference on January 19, 2009.
Baburova, who worked for Russia`s top opposition paper
Novaya Gazeta, was wounded when she tried to stop the gunman,
and died from her wounds at the hospital.
Tikhonov and Khasis, who have loose links to
nationalist groups, were arrested later that year in a joint
operation by investigators, Special Forces and interior
The murders caused outrage at home and in the West,
where authorities are openly alarmed that killers and their
masterminds often go unpunished in Russia.
The FSB security service at the time said the two were
members of a "small radical nationalist group" taking revenge
on the lawyer for his role in defending the victims of racism
and those involved in the Chechnya crisis.
Observers say the stiff punishment was a rare victory
for human rights campaigners.
"A life sentence is a truly rare event for our
courts," Alexander Verkhovsky, director of the Sova research
centre that tracks hate crimes, told AFP, adding that the
punishment would provide an example for others.
Novaya Gazeta, which in the past has lost several
reporters including star journalist Anna Politkovskaya,
praised the verdict but said authorities needed to do much
more if they wanted to prove Russia respected human