Viktor Popkov

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Viktor Popkov
Viktor Popkov.jpg
Born 17 June 1946
Krasnodar, Soviet Union
Died 2 June 2001
Krasnogorsk, Russia
Cause of death
Assassination
Nationality Russian
Religion Old Believer
Spouse(s) Tatyana Popkova
Website
http://viktorpopkov.narod.ru/

Viktor Alekseyevich Popkov Виктор Алексеевич Попков (June 17, 1946 - June 2, 2001) was a Russian dissident, humanitarian, human rights activist and journalist. He spent the last 15 years of his life in the hot spots of the falling Soviet Union, including the Georgian-Abkhazian conflict, the Nagorno-Karabakh War and the war in Chechnya.[1] A deeply religious Old Believer and pacifist, Popkov taught non-violence.

Life and activism[edit]

Popkov studied physics at a Moscow institute, left without graduating and became a journalist and a seismologist in Kamchatka.[1] In 1979 he married Tatyana Lebedeva.

In 1992 Popkov founded and since then led the interdenominational group Omega set up to promote dialogue between religious denominations.[2] He also joined the Memorial Human Rights Center, a leading Russian human rights group, and worked as a freelance journalist for the oppositionist newspaper Novaya Gazeta.

In 1992-1993 Popkov led a futile peace march in Abkhazia, delivered food to the starving town of Tkvarcheli, besieged by the Georgian forces, and saved many people from summary execution after the fall of Sukhum.[3] Working in Chechnya since 1995, Popkov negotiated release of dozens of civilian hostages and prisoners of war (including even a Russian general[2]), delivered humanitarian aid to refugees, and documented atrocities. Frequent visitor to Grozny during the fighting,[4] helped to release some of the Russian POWs held in the Presidential Palace in Grozny just before the Russian bombing in 1995[1] and filmed the aftermath of the Novye Aldi massacre in 2000.[5]

In 1999 he conducted a 40-day hunger strike in protest at the renewed war in Chechnya.[2] Afterwards, he became involved in attempts to restore contacts between Chechen Republic President Aslan Maskhadov and the Russian federal authorities.[6] During the Second Chechen War, Popkov often was arbitrarily detained by the security forces and his humanitarian activities were severely hindered by the Russian military.[1][2][7] He was also frequently detained and threatened by some of the Chechen field commanders.[2]

Death[edit]

On April 18, 2001, Popkov was fatally shot near the embattled village of Alkhan-Kala while delivering medical supplies to civilians in Chechnya. His ambulance was ambushed in the vicinity of a federal roadblock by the masked gunmen in a Lada car who opened fire from an automatic weapon and then drove away not pursued.[1] The attackers were said to be Chechen Islamic fundamentalists in conjunction with the Russian forces. In 2002 Memorial pinpointed them to be members of an armed group led by the notorious warlord Arbi Barayev.[8][9]

Popkov's condition had been irreversibly aggravated when the troops at the checkpoint held him and his wounded companions (his driver and a Chechen doctor Rosa Muzarova also suffered serious injuries in the attack), all heavily bleeding, for about one hour (or even three hours[10]) following the shooting. By the time the wounded were taken to Hospital No. 9 in Grozny, their condition was critical and Popkov was already in coma.[11]

Viktor Popkov died in a military hospital in Krasnogorsk, Moscow Oblast, without regaining consciousness. He left seriously ill widow Tatyana and a disabled daughter Ulyana.[1]

References[edit]

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