Award-winning human rights campaigner murdered in Chechnya
Natalia Estemirova found shot dead after being abducted outside her home
Human rights activists expressed outrage at her murder, reminiscent of the killing of Anna Politkovskaya, the journalist, writer, and bitter Kremlin critic shot dead outside her Moscow apartment in 2006.
Estemirova, 50, was a close friend of Politkovskaya's. The two had collaborated on numerous investigations into human rights abuses in Chechnya. Both were scathing opponents of Ramzan Kadyrov, Chechnya's pro-Kremlin president.
"Natasha was at the forefront of some of the most intense human rights investigations in Chechnya," said Allison Gill, director of Human Rights Watch in Russia. "She was targeted because of her work. I have no doubt her killing was to silence her. One of the most amazing things about Natasha is that she never stopped doing what she was doing. She never checked herself. She was highly public in her calls for accountability.
"I think the human rights situation is in crisis in Russia," she added. "We have a deathly silence from the authorities whenever activists, lawyers or journalists are murdered. Not a single person is brought to justice."
Estemirova was the Chechnya-based head of Memorial, Russia's oldest human rights group.
Operating out of a small office in Grozny, she doggedly pursued stories of human rights abuses in the face of official intimidation and hostility.
She recently collaborated on two damning reports into punitive house burnings and extra-judicial killings in Chechnya, allegedly carried out by Kadyrov's forces. The reports documented how on 2 July his troops allegedly shot 20-year-old Madina Yunusova and her husband near Grozny.