“Thank God The Newspaper Exists…”

said Russian President Dmitri A. Medvedev of Novaya Gazeta, “an independent newspaper that has established itself as one of the Kremlin’s sharpest critics and that 10 days ago lost a 25-year-old reporter in what apparently was a contract killing.” Medvedev made this comment during a meeting he requested last Thursday with the paper’s editor.

During the meeting, per the New York Times:

Mr. Medvedev…expressed his “deepest sorrow and compassion” over the death of the reporter, Anastasia Baburova, who was shot as she walked down a Moscow street with a human rights lawyer, Stanislav Markelov. Mr. Markelov, who was also associated with the newspaper and was thought to be the primary target of the attack, was also shot dead.

To the frustration of human rights advocates, the Kremlin had not previously released any comment about the killings.

Mr. Medvedev’s gesture — which [Novaya Gazeta’s editor, Dmitri A.] Muratov described as “absolutely sincere” — comes on the heels of several other unexpected moves by the government in Moscow.

Earlier this week, Mr. Medvedev moved to scale back a bill that would expand the definition of treason, saying he had been influenced by the outcry “in the media and society” against the proposed change…

…Liberal commentators on Friday were split on whether Mr. Medvedev was signaling a departure from the policies of his predecessor, Prime Minister Vladimir V. Putin.

A related Novaya Gazeta column.

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Liz Cox Barrett is a writer at CJR.