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15 July 2009 

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Russian Human Rights Activist Found Dead in Chechnya

15 July 2009

Russian human rights activist Natalya Estemirova (2007 file)
Natalya Estemirova (2007 file)
Prominent Russian human rights activist Natalya Estemirova was found dead Wednesday, hours after she was kidnapped in Chechnya.

Authorities say they found Estemirova's body in Ingushetia, which borders Chechnya in the North Caucasus. They say she was shot in the head and chest.

A spokeswoman for Russian President Dmitri Medvedev said he voiced "indignation" at the murder and ordered a top-level investigation.

The European Union also spoke out against the killing. Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt, whose country currently holds the EU presidency, said the EU condemns what it calls a "brutal act."

Human Rights Watch also condemned the killing. The organization says it looks like open season (hunting season) on anyone trying to bring attention to what it describes as appalling human rights abuses in Chechnya.

Staffers for the Russian rights organization, Memorial, where Estemirova worked, say four men shoved her into a car as she left her home in the Chechen capital, Grozny, Wednesday morning. They say witnesses heard her yell that she was being kidnapped.

Estemirova had collected evidence of kidnappings, torture and killings in Chechnya since the start of the second separatist war there in 1999.

Chechen authorities have been highly critical of her work.

She worked closely in Chechnya with Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya, another Kremlin critic who was murdered in Moscow in 2006.

In 2007, Estemirova was awarded the first annual Anna Politkovskaya Award, in honor of her colleague and friend. The prize was created by the group, Reach All Women In War, with the support of female laureates of the Nobel Peace Prize.


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