Complaint Filed Over 'Vile' Report In Izvestia

A Moscow journalist has filed a complaint over an article in the daily newspaper Izvestia suggesting that lawyer Stanislav Markelov and journalist Anastasia Baburova were lovers and that their slaying in central Moscow last month was a crime of passion.

In the Feb. 13 article, Izvestia journalist Vladimir Perekryost cited unidentified sources as saying Markelov and Baburova were romantically involved and that they were shot dead by a jealous gunman who, like the two victims, was involved in opposition politics.

Zoya Svetova, a journalist with the independent-minded daily newspaper Noviye Izvestia -- which is unrelated to Izvestia -- has filed a complaint over the article to the Public Press Complaints Panel, an independent ethics regulatory board founded by the Union of Journalists in 1998.

Svetova called the article "vile" and suggested that someone had paid to have it published. "I knew Stas Markelov, and I believe it is unacceptable to write such things when people have died and when they have relatives still alive," she said.

Billed as the newspaper's "own investigation," the Izvestia article suggested that Markelov, a lawyer in several high-profile human rights cases, may have been killed by an opposition activist jealous of his purported relationship with Baburova.

The attacker may have killed Baburova because she recognized him, having seen him in a mask at protests, the Izvestia report said.

In her complaint, Svetova accused Perekryost of publishing his "personal speculations" and "intentionally [misleading] the newspaper's readers by telling them that the murder of the lawyer and journalist was not linked to their professional activities."

The attack happened shortly after Markelov gave a news conference, attended by Baburova, at which he criticized the release of a former army colonel, Yury Budanov, convicted of murdering a Chechen girl whose family Markelov represented.

The press ethics board will ask Izvestia editor Vladimir Mamontov or Perekryost to attend a hearing on Svetova's complaint, the board's chief, Galina Smirnova, told The Moscow Times.

Mamontov said Monday that he stood by the article, which he said was part of a series investigating different versions of the murders. "Despite whatever appeals are made to whatever chambers, we will continue an objective, complete investigation," Mamontov said, RIA-Novosti reported.

Izvestia's lawyer Oleg Zadubrovsky said he was unaware of the complaint and unsure of the procedure.

Izvestia rarely publishes articles critical of the Kremlin or the government.

The murders bore little resemblance to a typical crime of passion. Investigators believe that the gunman was either a professional killer or an individual who disagreed with Markelov on his human rights views, the Investigative Committee said in a statement last month.