Several hundred activists gathered on Mykhailivska Sq. in Kyiv to honor the memory of the lawyer and human rights champion, Stanislav Markelov, and journalist Anastasia Baburova who were murdered in downtown Moscow that day in 2009. The violent death of these two young people was associated with their human rights activities, including Anastasia’s numerous articles about neo-Nazism and Stanislav’s high-profile cases as defense counsel (particularly the Budanov case involving a Russian commanding officer charged with the murder of a Chechen girl).
Markelov and Baburova’s tragedy has long become a symbol of the threat of political terror in Russia, Ukraine and far beyond their borders.
Those of the activists who had been the victims’ friends spoke of them not so much to mourn them as to call for emulating their example and struggling on against those who passed the dark bills on January 16, who led the people to poverty, who allowed acts of violence in broad daylight against individuals of the “wrong” ethnic origin or political views. Anastasia was 25 when she died and Stanislav was 34. His friends had asked him to be careful and he replied that he realized the risk but that there was no other way. Both must have realized the risks they were facing and both were prepared to meet the challenges. I was among the people who gathered on the square with lit candles. They were concerned and looked grave, although some smiled and smoked. Some of the posters read: “Remember and Struggle On!”, “Down with Political Terror!”, “We’re Antifascists!”, “People Above All!”
There were young people who represented various movements and political forces, and a number of human rights activists and journalists. They were united by their desire to have human rights and struggle against discrimination, neo-Nazism, and police state. This meant that Markelov and Baburova had died for a cause.
And then we heard from the rostrum about a clash with the Berkut special forces on Hrushevsky St., near the Dynamo Stadium. Some of those present immediately headed for the Maidan. Most young people wore masks or wrapped their faces in mufflers. A girl wore a veil. They did so because they didn’t want to be thrown behind bars because they voiced their views or be assaulted by those who believed their views were wrong. Those were strong-willed and creative-minded people, part of those who were behind the barricades and who could become victims of a revolution, war or public unrest.
Those who survived could be among those in power.