EU urges Russia to swiftly end probe of activist's murder

15th July 2010, Comments 0 comments

The European Union urged Russia on Thursday to swiftly complete its investigation into the murder of rights activist Natalya Estemirova and end a climate of impunity in the North Caucasus.

EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton said the 27-nation bloc was worried about the "worsening of the situation of human rights defenders" in the restive region one year after Estemirova's assassination.

Ashton also expressed concern about charges brought against the chief of the non-governmental organisation Memorial, Oleg Orlov.

"The European Union strongly encourages the authorities of the Russian Federation to work towards putting an end to the climate of impunity and fear in the North Caucasus in general and Chechnya in particular," she said.

The EU also "hopes for swift results in the investigation into the death of Ms Estemirova - as was declared by President Medvedev after the murder - and other Human Rights Defenders in the Russian Federation," Ashton added.

The EU issued its statement just as Russian President Dmitry Medvedev announced that Russia had identified the killer of Estemirova and that he now was the target of an international search.

Estemirova, 50, was abducted outside her home in the Chechen capital of Grozny before her corpse was found hours later riddled with bullet holes in neighbouring Ingushetia on July 15, 2009. She worked for Memorial.

Orlov was charged with libel earlier this month in a criminal investigation into his allegations last year that the Kremlin-backed leader of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov, was responsible for Estemirova's murder.

The controversial Kadyrov angrily dismissed the allegations and in turn has described Memorial as "enemies of the people".

"The European Union is concerned at the recent threats received by the NGO Memorial and the charges brought forward against its Director, Mr Oleg Orlov," Ashton said.

© 2010 AFP

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