WASHINGTON, July 16 (RAPSI) – The US State Department has issued a statement in memory of Russian journalists Natalya Estemirova and Paul Klebnikov and has urged the Russian Government to protect journalists and human rights defenders.

“We honor the memories of Ms. Estemirova and Mr. Klebnikov by calling for an end to the impunity for abuses in the North Caucasus and elsewhere in Russia. The United States supports the efforts of brave journalists and human rights defenders around the world who expose corruption and human rights abuses. We urge the Russian Government to protect journalists and human rights defenders, in accordance with the international agreements to which Russia is a party,” the statement reads.

Estemirova, an employee of the Memorial Human Rights Center and the winner of several renowned human rights awards, was kidnapped in Grozny on July 15, 2009. Her body was later found in Ingushetia.

Her murder incited a political and social uproar.

Forbes Russia editor Paul Klebnikov was shot on July 9, 2004 when walking out of his editorial building in Moscow. The two men who shot him escaped. Klebnikov died from his four bullet wounds on the way to hospital, after saying that he did not know who attacked him.

The State Department also made mention in its statement of the fact that neither the killers of Estemirova and Klebnikov, nor those who ordered these crimes have ever been brought to justice.